Well, it’s really more than that. But for Jews, eating Chinese food on Christmas has become a ritual, or tradition.
Chanukah (or Hanukkah, or one of half a dozen other spelling variations) is tied to the Hebrew Lunar calendar. It begins on the 25th of Kislev every year. However, the 25th of Kislev falls on a different day of the secular calendar every year.
Most Jews never know when that day falls on the secular calendar until a non-Jewish (aka a Gentile) friend asks when Chanukah starts. That question forces us to consult a calendar provided free from the Kosher butcher or the local Jewish Funeral Home.
By the way, Jews also celebrate December 25th. Why not?….it’s a paid day off from work. So, we go to movies (there are no lines because the Gentiles are doing something else). And after the movies we make our annual Christmas pilgrimage to get Chinese food (a traditional Jewish food).
Interestingly, in the secular calendar, 2016 is 4713 in the Chinese calendar and is 5777 in the Jewish Calendar. No one knows how Jews ordered Chinese take-out for the first 1064 years of their existence (let me do the math for you: 5777 – 4713 = 1064). Historically, those years are known as “The Dark Ages”!
An excerpt from an article I found on TabletMag.com explains WHY it’s a sacred tradition for American Jews to eat Chinese food at Christmas. Click on the link at the bottom of the post for the entire article.
Jewish love for Chinese food is neither hallucinated nor arbitrary. It is very real and very determined, and it originates roughly a century ago …on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Most Chinese people are not Christian. Therefore, on Christmas, Chinese restaurants are open.
Rabbi Joshua Plaut, who is putting the finishing touches on a book about Jews and Christmas (it has a chapter on Chinese food), says: “For Jews, the decision to go to a Chinese restaurant on Christmas is conscious and intended.”
“It’s a love affair and a sacred tradition to partake of Peking duck,” Plaut quips. He argues that to eat Chinese on Christmas is a ritual, not unlike the rituals that traditional Judaism—which has always valued observance where Christianity has valued faith—requires. For some, the Chinese-on-Christmas experience is a replacement for traditional rituals: A prayer you can eat.
But more than standing in for religion, going to Chinese restaurants on Christmas as a Jewish person is an elective assertion of your culture. “As ridiculous as it is, there’s something kind of wonderful about it, that you’re paying homage to what has come before you,” said Goodman, the Jewish Food author.
To read the entire article, please click here.
For reviews, and our recommendations, on where to eat Chinese food on Christmas, click here.
Humbly submitted for your consumption,
—Mee Magnum (“Chop! Chop!”)