Every year since I can remember, I woke on Christmas morning knowing there would be no presents, nothing from Santa, not a note saying“better luck next year” or “here’s your lump of coal.” There would be no half-eaten cookies by the fireplace or milk gone from the glass. And there would be no hoof prints left from Santa’s reindeer or marks on the roof from his sleigh. No, I wouldn’t be unwrapping presents that day, and I definitely wouldn’t be eating a Christmas dinner with my family.
Instead, I would wake up on Christmas, and it would feel like any ordinary day. Since year one, the day would consist of me, my brother, my parents, and possibly some of our friends going out to a movie at a local mall and then having a nice, long dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. Yep, Chinese food on Christmas, because as you might have guessed, I’m Jewish.
Chinese Food? Really? Yep. You might have heard about Jewish people eating Chinese food on Christmas. Maybe it was through a joke someone told you, a popular movie or an episode of a television show, or one of the songs that went viral. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s no joke. It’s very real, and it’s how I look forward to celebrating Christmas every year.
Fried Rice and Popcorn. So why do we eat Chinese food on Christmas while the rest of the world eats beautifully prepared home-cooked meals? It’s simple. Chinese restaurants are pretty much the only thing open on Christmas. You might find a few other restaurants open if you really try, but the Chinese restaurants are always open, and always reliable on Christmas. Come on, how many Jewish Chinese people have you met? Because of this, it has become a tradition, not just for me, but for many Jewish families.
But, Chinese restaurants aren’t the only thing open on Christmas. As Brandon Walker sang in his viral YouTube video, we “eat Chinese food on Christmas, [and] go to the movie theatre too.” While the malls might be closed and all the shops dark and locked up, most movie theaters stay open on Christmas. That means we have our whole day planned. It’s movies and popcorn in the morning, and Chinese food at night.
While I’d like to take credit for Jewish people eating Chinese food on Christmas, American Jews have been doing it since the beginning. At the end of the 19th century, as Jewish and Chinese people began immigrating toAmerica, the Jewish people started eating Chinese food. During the hours that most other Americans were at church on Sundays, American Jews would be eatingChinese food. This continued on to Christmas and has been a tradition for Jewish families around America ever since.
Oh, this isn’t a complaint or a plea for sympathy. As Christmas approaches and you’re thinking of unwrapping presents, I’m thinking of egg rolls … okay, perhaps not exactly. Merry Christmas.