My sister and I are basically the embodiment of “melting pot” heritage. I remember grade school discussions about ancestors and geography and having to take a deep breath before listing all the different places my family comes from (As I’ve gotten older, that list has only turned out to be longer and longer). However, at least I had a wide range of options when it came time for whatever day it was where everybody brought in a food from “their country.”

refuge children - Food Traditions & the Seven Fishes

My mom loves to torture us with this “refugee children” picture

Growing up, we used to spend Christmas Eve with my dad’s side of the family. My grandparents would fly up from Florida and we would get together with my aunt and uncle and cousins. Since I didn’t see any of them very often, I always looked forward to it. As for the food, leg of lamb has often been the “Christmas Eve Meat” of choice in my parents’ house, which may or may not have anything to do with my dad’s Greek/Turkish(?) roots.

My dad is also part-Italian (my grandfather was born & raised in Queens and had the best accent ever), but we never did, like, the feast of seven fishes that a lot of my “really” Italian friends did on Christmas Eve. I think the closest we came was the assorted sushi platter my mom started putting out with the appetizers when my sister and I were teenagers. Sushi became its own little Christmas Eve tradition, and I guess if you count, you can spot seven different varieties of fish, but yeah, nothing too elaborate.

I do think the seven fishes thing is a neat tradition, though, especially if you have a lot of hungry Italians to share with.   In recent years, however, there has been some concern over how to make it more sustainable and promote kindness toward the environment. This article by Paul Greenberg and Carl Safina, which appears in this week’s New York Times Sunday Review, shares some ideas for making your feast of seven fishes more earth-and-fish-friendly.  I know it’s a little late for this Christmas Eve, but hey, if nothing else, something to keep in mind for that random “it’s the middle of March, let’s throw a big party for no reason” meal. Or next year.

Do you have any holiday food traditions in your family? Where is your family from?  

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