There is much lore surrounding the historical and religious significance of the Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner, a commemoration of the wait, called Vigilia (Italian for “vigil”) di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus. The dinner typically consists of seven different seafood dishes. The tradition of eating seafood on Christmas Eve dates from the medieval Catholic tradition of abstinence — in this case, refraining from the consumption of meat or milk products — on Fridays and specific holy days. As no meat or butter could be used, observant Catholics would instead eat fish, typically fried in oil.
There are many hypotheses for what the number seven relates to, one being the number of Sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church. Another theory is that seven is a number representing 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.
This year the following restaurants are offering a Seven Fishes dinner on Christmas Eve.
Barone’s Tuscany Grill, 21 Route 31, Pennington, 609-818-0012. Seven Fishes dinner in addition to regular menu. BYOB. 5 p.m.
Marcello’s, 200 Farnsworth Avenue, Bordentown, 609-298-8360. www.ilovemarcellos.com. Seven Fishes dinner. Register. $39. 3 p.m. also 5 and 7 p.m.
Santino’s, 2360 Route 33, Robbinsville, 609-223-0931. Seven Fishes dinner in addition to regular menu. 5 p.m.
Tre Piani, 120 Rockingham Row, Forrestal Village, Plainsboro, 609-452-1515. www.trepiani.com. Feast of Seven Fishes menu available, pianist playing holiday carols, and holiday wine and drink specials. A la carte and children’s menu. Register. $65. 5 p.m.
Villa Barone, Robbinsville Allentown Road, Robbinsville, 609-259-0000. Seven Fishes dinner in addition to regular menu. BYOB. 5 p.m.