It’s a bit of cliche with a whole lot of truth behind it: Jews love eating Chinese food on Christmas and Christmas Eve. The story of why Jews in America stereotypically enjoy Chinese food on Christmas began, like so many American Jewish stories, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and Chinese immigrants were two non-Christian immigrant groups living side by side in nearby Manhattan neighborhoods. And while it’s true that Chinese restaurants were likely the only option open for Jews on a holiday like Christmas, Adam Chandler points out in this article from The Altantic that the Jews and Chinese were linked by their otherness on Christmas; neither had yet assimilated into American culture or celebrated the holiday.
Food writer Michael Twitty explains further, sharing, ““How do you affirm your Americanness when the ‘American’ thing to do is celebrate Christmas?” he said. “You create your own ‘Christmas.’”
Today, most American Jews feel accepted and embraced by American society, and so the isolation and negativity previously associated with the necessity to eat Chinese food has long passed. Chinese food on Christmas is celebrated by society at large, and you can even find restaurants like New York City’s Mile End deli featuring special Chinese-Jewish menus specifically for the celebration of “Jewish Christmas.”
To learn more watch our short, fun video below:
And if you’re hankering for some homemade Chinese food, try one of these 17 Chinese Takeout Recipes to Make on Jewish Christmas.