For those who celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes (also called La Vigilia), The Lusty Lobster is a one-stop shop for the meal many families of Italian heritage enjoy on Christmas Eve. By Eileen Moon Then there’s The Lusty Lobster crowd, the folks who make picking up seafood for the Feast of the Seven Fishes – or maybe just a tray of cocktail shrimp – a not-to-be-missed part of the holiday. A large lobster, bedecked with Christmas decorations, greets customers purchasing oysters, crabs, octopus and yes, lobster, for their Feast of the Seven Fishes menu Christmas Eve. Photo by Eileen Moon “We have an elf thatgoes out with hot chocolateand popcorn,” he said. The Lusty Lobster store in Highlands, 88 Bay Ave. In any case, celebrating the holiday requires a lot of fish. Although, Douty points out, many seafood buyers are OK with counting two different recipes using the same fish in calculating the seven. Say, shrimp cocktail and fried shrimp. Or crabcakes and crab claws. However it adds up, it’s worth standing in line for, apparently. So Douty and his staff work hard to keep their customers entertained. McDonough heralds theopening of the doors with afew bars of “The HallelujahChorus.” And often it’s the men who are in charge of the seafood errand while the rest of the family is presumably engaged in other tasks. There are various interpretations why the number seven comprises the family feast, including that it’s based on the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church or that it’s based on the biblical account of the creation of the world in the Book of Genesis, in which God rested on the seventh day. But when the business closes at 3 p.m., they all rejoice in a job well done. Doug Douty, owner of The Lusty Lobster, has been supplying Two River-area homes with fish and seafood for 40 years. Photo by Eileen Moon “By then, the line is down the street,” he said. “They sing along, make requests and share the popcorn and hot chocolate served by The Lusty elves.” Meanwhile, Douty and his staff are working hard to make sure all the customers go home with the requested makings of their holiday feast. “We don’t open until 10, but people start getting in line at 8 a.m. to make sure they get a good place in line,” said Doug Douty, who has owned the seafood emporium for 40 years. And along about 10 a.m., musician Andy McDonough arrives with his keyboard to entertain the crowd. “It’s a riot,” McDonough said. “I’ve had the pleasure to do it for a few years now and it’s just a special morning. There’s a crew that gets there early in cold, rain, whatever. They joke around about having been sent by their respective families and they huddle around the door until it opens up.” But there’s plenty of fun to be had while waiting to pick up orders that range from fresh lobster, crabs and oysters to octopus, squid and baccala, a salted cod that is a beloved part of many Italian American Christmas feasts. Rain, shine, sleet, snow, it doesn’t matter. They’ll be there. It’s not just an errand. It’s a tradition. It’s a long, busy day for Douty and his staff. “We open a lot of clams and oysters,” he said. HIGHLANDS – Some people celebrate Christmas Eve with one last trip to the mall. Others are all done by then and enjoying making cookies, wrapping gifts or watching one of the Hallmark Christmas movies that always have a happy ending. “We have a nice little family here,” Douty said. Once the doors close on Christmas Eve, Lusty Lobster won’t re-open until Dec. 27. “We let all the hard-working elves take an extra day off,” he said.