News – “Why Do Jewish People Eat Chinese Food On Christmas?”

npr.orgWhen and why did Jews start eating Chinese food on Christmas? Grab your chopsticks and dig in as NPR’s Robert Siegel speaks with Rabbi Joshua Plaut about this holiday tradition.


What is the most American thing a Jew can do on Christmas? Well, for me, it’s to go to work. Let one more Christmas observer have the day off. But when it’s time to send out for lunch on Christmas Day, I do as so many of my co-religionists do – I send out for Chinese food. Chinese food on Christmas has become as American Jewish as apple pie. And as part of our exploration of holiday traditions, we have invited Rabbi Joshua Plaut to our studios. He’s the author of “A Kosher Christmas: ‘Tis The Season To Be Jewish.” Welcome to the program.

JOSHUA PLAUT: Glad to be here. Thank you.

SIEGEL: You have a chapter in the book called “We Eat Chinese Food On Christmas.” How long has this been going on?

PLAUT: At least since 1935, according to The New York Times, which cites that a man by the name of Eng Shee Chuck brought chow mein on Christmas Day to the Jewish Children’s Home in Newark, N.J. That’s the first written citation of Jews eating Chinese food on Christmas.

SIEGEL: It’s either the discovery by Jews of Chinese food on Christmas or the discovery of Jewish customers by a Chinese restaurant on Christmas, whichever way you want to look at it.

PLAUT: Probably both.

SIEGEL: Probably both. And this has developed. This has become quite common over the years.

That’s a very informative conversation because I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little curious about how this tradition came to be.

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