EMERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Preparations for a Christmas Eve tradition are underway in many Italian-American homes.

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is both a cultural and religious tradition, and a delight for seafood lovers.

CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis visited some busy shopping spots across New Jersey.

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For many, Christmas Eve is all about tradition. Especially when it comes to food. At Peter’s Fish Market in Midland Park, N.J., people line up as early as 6 a.m. to fill their plates, and stomachs.

“You’ve got to wait on line, that’s part of the deal,” Joan Dearani of Mahway told DeAngelis. “This is crazy, every year.”

“Been coming here 45 years from Brooklyn,” another shopper said.

“Great sauce, great shrimp and that’s all we need,” said Timothy Tileston of Fair Lawn.

So is the fish shop. After all, it’s their busiest day of the year.

“It’s an Italian tradition predominantly, a lot of people cook seven different types of fish: Flounder, squid, shrimp. Just anything you put out today goes,” said Steve Sclafani of Peter’s Fish Market.

And what’s a Christmas tradition without Santa? He’s also on hand at the market, but instead of giving out gifts, he’s handing out shrimp cocktail.

He told DeAngelis it sure beats cookies.

Tell that to people prioritizing pastries.

“Three lobster tails, five cannolis,” said Joseph Mule of Oradell.

“Who sent you with this list?” DeAngelis asked.

“Who else? My wife,” he said.

This list is made and he’s checking it twice, while standing in a long line at Rispoli Pastry Shop in Emerson, N.J.

“Was it worth the wait?” DeAngelis asked.

“Absolutely. Tradition has to go on at all times. I love it,” he said.

Some best friends wait as long as it takes. One pair was waiting 42 minutes, and counting.

“This is our 15th year that we’ve been doing this as our tradition,” said Nancy Alsharif of Old Tappan.

Some wake up early to shop. But the Rispoli family have been waking up early to bake since 1937.

“We crack eggs, make our own chocolates. The recipes are handed down, really it’s like a bible,” said Francis Rispoli. “I tip my hat to my father and my grandfather. They did the groundwork.”

Full plates and full hearts on a day full of traditions, to end it with a happy and not so hungry holiday.


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