Picking Up the “Feast of the Seven Fishes”

SCRANTON, Pa. -- On Christmas Eve, a tradition so popular in Northeastern PA, there are traffic directors to help make things go smoothly.

"I'm here like every year, for the last 25 years on Christmas Eve to buy fish for my Italian dinner," said Jay Pollits of Carbondale.

The Holiday Seafood Stand at Schiff's Market opened for the Christmas season on December 14, but like always, going on Christmas Eve morning has become a tradition for many families, even if that means a packed parking lot.

"I've shopped here on Christmas before, so I know from having done that. I didn't know from a work standpoint. I like it, I like busy," said William Shelly of Scranton. He was one of four people directing traffic early Monday morning.

"We're early. Usually by 1, 2, 3 o'clock this place is nuts. We go into the store just to walk around because it's an adventure. Every Christmas Eve my daughter and I we come out just to see the people, last-minute shoppers like myself," Pollits laughed.

The long tradition of eating fish on Christmas Eve dates back to Catholics abstaining from eating eat on the eve of a feast day, so instead, they would eat seafood.

"Very religious community around here and fish is a big part of that religion. Seeing that big list, I just hope theirs lobster on their, lobsters are my favorite. Especially the cold ones," said Joseph Lennon of Dickson City. This is the second year Lennon has worked the stand at Schiff's during the holiday season.

"We've always had fish on Christmas Eve since I was a kid. We had calamari which we cut that out because no one likes it. We had smelts, which we cut that out because no one likes it. Now we do scallops and shrimp," Pollits explained.

Although the tradition technically calls for seven different types of fish, some folks at the Seafood Stand Monday say they will have more, and some say they might have less.

"We're going to try, I might open a can of tuna if I have to."

Schiff's will be closed on Christmas Day, and it reopens at 7 a.m. on December 26, getting ready for New Year's.