To me this almost sounds like a joke, and I want to know if this is really a tradition...

I was at a dinner tonight with some vendors, one of whom was from New England. He was telling the group about a catholic tradition of burying a dead fish in the back yard on Christmas. He wasn't Catholic himself, and couldn't elaborate, but swore his friend's family did this as a tradition, and that it was a "Catholic thing".

Google is coming up blank, so I'm asking our Catholicism experts here: Is this truly a tradition, and if so, what can you tell me about it? Origins, meanings, etc.

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    Never heard of it. It might be a "Catholic nationality" thing - not Catholic per se but maybe Italian, Polish, Austrian, or the like. Dec 18, 2014 at 2:52
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    There is a dish from some European country where you begin preparation of the fish by burying it in the snow. Saw it on PBS once. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermented_fish Dec 18, 2014 at 3:30
  • @davidbrainerd - I'm pretty sure that's it.He mentioned eating burying it one year and eating it the next, which I thought was crazy until I saw from your link that it's typical to let it ferment in an earthen pot for 6 months. If you can work that into an answer to the effect of "No, it's not a Catholic tradition, but it is possibly a family tradition or cultural one", I'll accept it. The question is "Is it a Catholic tradition?" and "No" answers the question. Dec 18, 2014 at 3:40
  • Further research shows that lutefisk, another fermented fish (although not one made by burying it) is a traditional Christmas meal in Norway. I'm sure this is all related, so you set me on the right path. For me the bottom line is this probably wasn't a joke, even though it's cultural, not Catholic. You were helpful, thanks! Dec 18, 2014 at 3:47

1 Answer 1


Rakfisk is a traditional Norwegian dish, which is made by burying trout or char in the ground for several months, and then eaten without cooking. It is traditionally eaten around Christmas, but it is not a specifically Christian tradition (any more than turkey or mince pies). Since it is eaten at Christmas, the burying would have to have happened several months before, unless the fish is buried for an entire year. Norway is not a particularly Catholic country, so it is unlikely to have been a Catholic tradition.

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