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Italian Families In The Delaware Valley Prepare For Feast Of The 7 Fishes

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Janet Anastasi Stechman holds a live eel at Anastasi Seafood, in South Philadelphia.  (Credit: Michelle Durham)

Janet Anastasi Stechman holds a live eel at Anastasi Seafood, in South Philadelphia. (Credit: Michelle Durham)

Michelle Durham Michelle Durham
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By Michelle Durham

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It’s a Christmas Eve tradition for thousands in the Delaware Valley, especially those of Italian descent, the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Why seven? What is the meaning behind this treasured tradition?

Vice President of Anastasi Seafood, Janet Anastasi-Stechman explains why seven fishes are prepared the night before Christmas.

“The tradition is that you bring all of your family together on Christmas Eve to eat an odd number of fish. One of the reasons is that the Italians believe it’s lucky.”

Which fishes are used? “Baklava is always one, smelts, squid or calamari, octopus, sardines, shrimp cocktail. It’s open to any kind of seafood.”

Stechman says each ethnic group prepares the fish differently. Baklava takes days to soak before you can prepare it.

Listen to Michelle Durham’s interview with Janet Anastasi-Stechman:

When I asked why eels are traditionally served, note Stechman’s careful response: “The reason why people eat certain foods is because they believe it gives them certain kind of powers. A wife would always bring an eel home for her husband — if you get my drift. Everybody’s getting eel this year (laughing)!”

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