When I was growing up in an Italian neighborhood in Union City, Christmas dinner for me always started on Christmas Eve. That's when we would celebrate the "feast of the seven fishes" as Vinnie LaFranca of Tuscany Italian Market explains;

"The feast began in the southern part of Italy," says Lafranca "Tradition says you must have seven different type of fishes, it doesn't matter the quality or the expense, it must be seven different types of fish." Regardless of what Lafanca says, you can't use Swedish fish candy or Pepperidge Farm goldfish, he said kiddingly. ;)

"Our custom is to make a fra Diavolo where you have three or four fishes in there," says LaFranca.  "My fra Diavolo we put scungilli, calamari, mussels, clams, fresh tomatoes, and a spicy sauce."

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But wait there's more!

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"In the modern world," says LaFranca, "they want the grilled octopus with the tentacles like we serve at the restaurant, which is phenomenal."

As anyone from the old school will tell you, the modern world doesn't do the seven fishes the way they used to. Keep in mind that that's what they heard from the old school when they were the modern world. Having said that and lived it, they are probably right.

With all the multitasking we do to begin with, then you factor in Christmas shopping, there isn't very much time to prepare the fishes the way your mother or grandmother did. That's where Tuscany Italian Market comes in. That's where you should be going to get your seven fishes for this Christmas Eve.

As for New Year's, it's all about the meat says Lafranca.

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"We've got prime rib, a nice pork round roast, a pork roast that we make with apple stuffing, that's more traditional."

I can't think of a better way to welcome in the new year.

Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise only. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.

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