Why American Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas

Why American Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas

If there’s a single identifiable moment when Jewish Christmas—the annual American tradition where Jews overindulge on Chinese food on December 25—transitioned from kitsch into codified custom, it was during Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan’s 2010 confirmation hearing.

During an otherwise tense series of exchanges, Senator Lindsey Graham paused to ask Kagan where she had spent the previous Christmas. To great laughter, she replied:  “You know, like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.”

Never willing to let a moment pass without remark, Senator Chuck Schumer jumped in to explain, “If I might, no other restaurants are open.”

And so goes the story of Jewish Christmas in a tiny capsule. For many Jewish Americans, the night before Christmas conjures up visions, not of sugar plums, but plum sauce slathered over roast duck or an overstocked plate of beef lo mein, a platter of General Tso’s, and (maybe) some hot and sour soup.

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