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Feast of the Seven Fishes on February 5, 2016

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Festa Dei Sette Pesci (Feast of the Seven Fishes) February 5, 2016
East Fresno Rotary Annual Cioppino Dinner
Chef:  John Chiminello
Chef:  Gary Dunn
800 Guests

The Feast of the Seven Fishes (Italian: Festa dei sette pesci), also known as The Vigil (Italian: La Vigilia), is an Italian-American celebration of Christmas Eve with meals of fish and other seafood.

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is part of the Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration.

Today, it is a feast that typically consists of seven different seafood dishes. It originates, however, from Southern Italy, where it is known as The Vigil (La Vigilia). However, some Italian-American families have been known to celebrate with nine, eleven or thirteen different seafood dishes. This celebration commemorates the wait, the Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus.

Basic menu of Cioppino with Appetizers and Horsd'oeurves varies depending on availability of seafood.

The long tradition of eating seafood on Christmas Eve dates from the Roman Catholic tradition of abstinence.  In this case, refraining from the consumption of meat or milk products – on Wednesdays, Fridays and (in the Latin Church) Saturdays, as well as during Lent and on the eve of specific holy days. As no meat or animal fat (there is no prohibition on milk or dairy products) could be used on such days, observant Catholics would instead eat fish, typically fried in oil.

The meal may include seven, eight, or even nine specific fishes that are considered traditional. The most famous dish Southern Italians are known for is baccalà (salted cod fish). The custom of celebrating with a simple fish such as baccalà is attributed to the greatly impoverished regions of Southern Italy. Fried smelts, calamari and other types of seafood have been incorporated into the Christmas Eve dinner over the years.

Other theories include: that the number represents the seven Sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church; or it represents the Seven hills of Rome that surround the city. It may represent perfection (the traditional Biblical number for divinity is three, and for Earth is four, and the combination of these numbers, seven, represents God on Earth, or Jesus Christ).

The meal's components may include some combination of anchovies, whiting, lobster, dried salt cod, smelts, squid, octopus, shrimp, mussels and clams.

The menu may also include pastas, vegetables, baked goods, Cannoli, Italian Ice  and homemade wine. This tradition remains very popular to this day in the Fresno/Central Valley Area.

Tickets are available at:  East Fresno Rotary.com, John Chiminello  559-917-5985.

This is our 40th year providing this dinner with proceeds going right back into our community.

Enjoy Food, Friends and Festivities.

Thanks  John

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