Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Chinese Takeout with Lindsey

A staple of Christmas day plans for generations!

Last year, NPR posted an article discussing the history of different holiday traditions that often go undiscussed: eggnog, jelly donuts for Hanukkah, and, of course, the tradition of Jewish families eating Chinese food on Christmas. Did you know it goes back to at least 1935? 

This year, we decided to pay tribute to that tradition with our own "Jewish Christmas". Read on to find out a little more about this classic holiday treat!

According to NPR, the tradition of Jewish families eating Chinese food on Christmas day goes back to 1935, when the American Jewish Journal posted an article criticizing Jews that ate at non Kosher restaurants. Chinese restaurants were specifically singled out, which suggests it was already common practice and tradition for Jewish families to patronize such establishments. The 1930's is when Chinese food really started to hit the mainstream, slowly growing in popularity throughout the 20th century until what was once "exotic" could now be enjoyed all over the country, even in small town America.

It's widely agreed that the Chinese food tradition's roots can be traced back to when both Chinese and Jewish communities were new immigrant communities to the United States. As both cultures don't traditionally celebrate Christmas, especially not in the early 20th century, Chinese restaurants remained open during the holiday and were one of the few options available to Jewish families looking to go out on Christmas Day. 

As Chinese food was new and exciting - and ingredients couldn't always be easily identified - Jewish families were able to enjoy new, interesting food without worrying too much about if they were keeping Kosher, thus raising the ire of the author of the 1935 article. The fact that this became a big enough tradition to feature so prominently in this article suggests to me that the tradition probably pre-dates 1935 by at least a decade or so, and must have grown in popularity until it was seen as a genuine crisis by certain members of the Jewish community.

Chinese restaurants became a place to celebrate community and friendship, as well as cross cultural exchange. It allowed members of both cultures to feel included and create a unique tradition on a holiday they are traditionally excluded from. Although there are many other options available to families looking to eat out on Christmas Day in 2018, this is still a favorite tradition for many Jewish families. 

However you celebrate winter holidays, we hope you had a very happy December and merry New Year!

See you in 2019!

1 comment:

  1. Works for singles with no kids, too. I ate Chinese out for Christmas dinner two years ago. ;)