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Why eating Chinese food on Christmas is an American Jewish tradition

For Chinese restaurants Christmas is their Superbowl Sunday. But how did Chinese food become a staple of the holidays for some?

Chinese food on Christmas day has become a popular tradition among the American Jewish community. When everything else shuts down, call the local Chinese place to get some dinner. But do these restaurants really see that much traffic from customers on Christmas day?

Roberto A. Ferdman of the Washington Post investigated Google’s search trends for Chinese food throughout the year. There’s a considerable spike around December 25th for queries relating to “Chinese food” that date back to 2004 (when Google’s trend data first became available).

Ferdman also notes that GrubHub reported a significant spike in past sales for Chinese restaurants on Christmas day, making it something of a Superbowl Sunday for the cuisine. Ed Schoenfeld, owner of RedFarm, confirmed this phenomena when he spoke to Adam Chandler of The Atlantic:

“Clearly this whole thing with Chinese food and Jewish people has evolved. There’s no question. Christmas was always a good day for Chinese restaurants, but in recent years, it’s become the ultimate day of business.”

As to why the tradition has become so heavily associated with the Jewish community, it may have started as the only dining option available, but has evolved into a Jewish American tradition.

Chandler reveals a far-deeper bond between the Chinese and Jewish communities that goes back to the years between 1899 and 1911 when the latter’s population spiked in New York City from immigration. Their relationship starts with their similarities as the non-Christian others in America during that time, and continued with Chinese restaurants as one of the few places where Jews could get semi-Kosher food. Where Mexican, Italian, and American restaurants mix an overwhelming amount of dairy and meat together, Chinese restaurants offered an acceptable foreign alternative.

Schoenfeld said to Chandler:

Chinese restaurants were the easiest place to trick yourself into thinking you were eating Kosher food.

It’s a symbiotic relationship that has gown over the years into an unique American tradition for these cultures, bringing people together in ways we never thought.

Read more atThe Washington PostandThe Atlantic

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


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