Vox.com: The history of Jews, Chinese food, and Christmas, explained by a rabbi - In the US, Jews have been eating American Chinese food on Christmas for over 100 years.

Photo, above: Two men enjoy Chinese cuisine prepared by Chinese chefs within the guidelines of kosher food preparation at a restaurant. Bettmann Archive

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Okay, so tell me when eating Chinese food on Christmas first comes into the picture. Is that a Jewish-American tradition?
Yes. It begins at the end of the 19th century, on the Lower East Side, where Jewish and Chinese immigrants lived in close proximity. The very first mention of American Jews eating in a Chinese restaurant dates to 1899, when the American Hebrew journal criticized Jews for eating at non-kosher restaurants. By 1936, a publication called the East Side Chamber News reported at least 18 Chinese tea gardens and chop suey eateries in heavily-populated Jewish neighborhoods. All of these were within close walking distance of Ratner’s, which was then the most famous Jewish dairy restaurant in Manhattan.

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Thanks for posting, It was our family’s tradition too while I was growing up … the last Chinese food Christmas meal I had was in Westchester a couple of years ago, pretty sure I posted about it here, if not attached is a picture from that meal of DH … My fondest memories are of a Christmas day meal of Dim Sum at “Nice Restaurant” in NYC’s Chinatown with family I very rarely get to see … great food great time … the restaurant has been closed for at least 8 years :sob: Most likely will be Chinese food this year.

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And I thought it was because it was the only restaurant open on Christmas! Chinese food and a movie was what we did. A few years back there was a blizzard on Christmas day. I live in the burbs - lots of two lane roads and steep hills. We ordered Chinese food delivery. They came! It took the delivery guy over two hours to get here (normally 10 minutes) and he arrived pretty much shaking - but we got our Chinese food on Christmas!

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I hope he got a wonderful Christmas tip.

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I think the “safe treyf” business might (at least partly) explain the apparent earlier patronization of Chinese restaurants (at a time when American Jews in general were more likely to keep kosher at home to a greater extent than most seem to have done from the mid-50s through the 80s, at least based on what I know of my father’s family’s habits and those of my not-really-observant Jewish friends growing up, but I think that at least for the period from the 50s through the early-mid 80s, the Chinese-food-and-a-movie habit did have more to do with what (and what only) was open on Christmas, though it probably helped that aside from maybe a few token Christmas decorations at some Chinese restaurants, the meal and dining “experience” wouldn’t be overtly “Christmas themed” either, and of course the earlier trend would presumably have had a background influence, even if the original reasons for it had been forgotten by then…

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Mike you are totally correct. Chinese restaurants were the only open restaurants, except for (in NYC) kosher restaurants. We would always go out to eat on Christmas, as my mom called it a “cooking holiday” for her…
For many years we ran from NYC to either the Catskills or Florida (time period from late 50’s to early 70") not every year, but to enclaves with other Jewish families who were on sort of a forced vacation , because the entire USA stopped everything during “holiday week”…
I for one loved that time with great memories and still do.

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excerpt:

“The Jews and Chinese were the two largest non-Christian immigrant communities in America,” said Jennifer 8. Lee, author of “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food,” producer of the documentary “The Search for General Tso” and co-founder and president of the literary studio Plympton. “They didn’t keep a Christian calendar so their restaurants were open on Christmas.”

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Now, of course, the influx of Indians and Pakistanis has led to an Indian food tradition among some, especially since a strictly vegetarian restaurant, while not certified kosher, will satisfy a lot of Jews. Plus the only Christmas touch is the red and green chutneys.:relieved: