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In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, put pureed or mashed tomatoes.

Add garlic, 1 tablespoon parsley, salt, red pepper flakes and olive oil.

So they compromise, serving a meatless and fishless pasta course, mostly for the nieces, followed by fish for the rest of the family.

Maggie Debelius is Irish-American but she married into an Italian-American family and so celebrates the Feast of the Seven Fishes with her husband’s family.

There were festivals around these occurrences.” Many of these pre-Christian festivals were Christianized as the church’s influence grew.

Other variations on the feast call for nine types of fish to be served, signifying the Holy Trinity times three and still others say the correct number is 13, for the 12 apostles and Jesus. Not surprisingly, everyone’s traditions are different and Christmas Eve menus vary from place to place and from family to family. Y., but spent Christmas Eve at his Nonna Angelina’s house in the Bronx.

More important, though, was the significance of the meal.

‘To me the tradition was really about abundance and variety as much as being lucky.” Fariello says now he celebrates Christmas Eve with extended family, including three nieces who don’t care for fish.

The first time the Arlington, Va., resident hosted the dinner about a decade ago, her son was an infant. Mary Louise Gerlach, also of Arlington, says she is fed up with the labor required to pull off a Seven Fishes dinner—cleaning and prepping the fish, cooking and serving it all.

Her menu was decidedly non-traditional and included Pepperidge Farm goldfish, Swedish fish, fish sticks, lox, a can of tuna and Dogfish Head beer. “I’m making beef tenderloin,” she says about this year.

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