A photo of Chinese eggrolls and a dip.
On Christmas Day, many American Jews eat Chinese food, including eggrolls.

What's up with Jews and Chinese food on Christmas?

"...on this night, we dip twice." That's the line from the Passover Haggadah.

Except, not on the night before Christmas.

If you are Jewish, you are most likely dipping far more than twice. You are probably dipping four or five times.

Fried noodles in the duck sauce.

This evening, I will be participating in the ancient Jewish custom of eating Chinese food at a restaurant with beloved congregants. No doubt, we will run into other members of the tribe there. We could probably act out Fiddler On The Roof from memory.

But, why? Why did eating Chinese food on Christmas (and in many places, going to the movies as well) become a Jewish "thing?"

There are any number of theories as to how this minhag (custom) developed. Let me sum up two for you -- and throw in a third.

The urban geography argument: If you consider the history of Jewish and Chinese settlement in the United States (and other places, too) you will discover that Jews and Chinese people have often lived in close proximity. Consider the major example: New York City's Chinatown and the Lower East Side.

It is also true that Asians often move into formerly-Jewish areas and/or areas that are undergoing ethnic transition. Therefore, that brings Jews and Chinese (and Italians, and others) living cheek to jowl, with a certain amount of culinary exchange.

The hidden treif argument: Anyone who knows anything about Judaism and Jewish culinary culture knows about the biblical taboo on eating pig.

Shellfish -- less so. (As one modern sage put it: Lobster is treif, but pork is anti-semitic).

Both of those forbidden food groups are staples of the Chinese menu (with a hearty shout out to kosher Chinese restaurants).

With the exception of pork ribs, Chinese food offers the Jewish diner the ability to eat treif, but not to have it stare you in the punim. The shrimp and pork is concealed inside egg rolls. It's there, but it's not there.

(I had at least two childhood friends whose parents maintained three sets of dishes: milk, meat, and Chinese).

Those arguments for the Jewish relationship with Chinese food are quite common.

But, they would hold true for the Jewish-Chinese food romance on any given day of the year.

Why, then, on erev Christmas? ("Why is this night different from all other nights?"

My third argument:

The cultural stranger argument: I figured this one out several decades ago.

'Twas the night before Christmas, on 81st Street,

When Jeff and his friends had nowhere to eat.

The burger joint closed, and the pizza place, too

So we sat and we wondered: now what do we do?

Said a friend with bravado: "I have an idea

It's an old, staid tradition that's perfectly clear.

We will find a Chinese place that is open,

There will be food there." That's what we were hopin'.

And so, down the street, out into the chill,

We found one place open; it would fit the bill.

We ate with the owner, his wife, and his kids.

And then he asked shyly: "I assume you are Yids."

We admitted the truth; there was no need to lie.

But, then I was curious. And so, I asked why.

He said with a smile: "It seems to be true

That the only non-Christians are the Chinese and you.

Of course, there are Muslims, and Hindus, and Jain,

But see, they have nothing that compares to lo mein.

When everyone else is looking at mangers,

The Jews and the Chinese are cultural strangers.

It's great to be different at this holy season.

That is why you are here. It's a very good reason!"

We went on to order. The food, it was great.

We stayed until seven, and then it was eight.

We said we'd be going, but we would return.

For Jews, it seems, have something to learn.

We are not the only ones who stand out.

To live with our differentness; that is what it's about.

Whatever you choose to do this evening, may the warmth of this season embrace you!

 

 

Comments

  1. Since my family does all the Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve, I often find myself hunting for Chinese food on Christmas day.

    It’s become sort of a game.

  2. It reminds me of a story from a long time ago. We were Jewish. I was visiting my parents in Southern California, and they wanted to go out for dinner at a local strip mall. When we got to the mall, I saw a few doors down from the Chinese restaurant they had intended to go to a French restaurant. I was just learning to cook food that wasn’t Chinese, Which is what I had learned to cook first as I was beginning learning to cook at all,and was very interested in going to the French restaurant.

    My mother said, “oh, I don’t want anything foreign. Let’s have Chinese!”

  3. Jews should assimilate by acknowledging Christ is God. They are happy to claim Christ is a Jew, now take the next step.

  4. I have a Tuesday tradition of eating Chinese food, I’m skipping it this week. My regular order comes off what might be described as the 2nd testament menu, bbq pork fried rice.

    Have a wonderful dinner.

  5. Jesus is for the dumb silly Gentiles. Most Jews know they made it up.

  6. And a Merry Mythmas to one and all with or without Chinese food!

  7. or, Michael, christians should assimilate by realizing that the christian scriptures are a gloss on the hebrew scriptures : that jesus was a jewish prophet giving to his generation the visions and teaching of the jewish people .

    if jesus was more than that, as many say, it is only relevant after we acknowledge that basic reality of his life .

  8. Considering that Judaism died in 72AD the only bit left was Christ coming as God (aka Yahweh as man) which is the only outlet remaining after Rome destroyed the 2nd Temple. There is no choice. The true Judaism that required blood sacrifice was destroyed. When Christ came as Yahweh born in flesh Jews were meant to convert. Christ predicted the destruction of the temple which ends the faith.

  9. your statement : “Considering that Judaism died in 72AD….” reminds me of mark twain’s reaction on hearing of his demise : “the reports of my death were greatly exaggerated.” (not exactly what he wrote but close enough for google.)

    “…only outlet remaining after Rome destroyed the 2nd Temple.”

    the jewish people, with all the pain and difficulties in the lost of the first temple, survived and purified their concept of god and their duty as god’s people after the lost of the temple and the babylonian exile . prior to that isaiah channeled god saying : ”

    “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
    says the Lord;

    Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your doings
    from before my eyes;
    cease to do evil,
    learn to do good;
    seek justice,
    rescue the oppressed,
    defend the orphan,
    plead for the widow.” (isaiah 1 : from verses 11 and 16 and 17)

    jesus of nazareth echoed isaiah throughout his ministry and christians followed the footsteps of the jewish people, at times doing as isaiah and jesus preached, and at other times getting bogged down in laws and rituals and ignoring the high morality of doing first for our neighbor as god wants .

  10. The Fundamental aspect to Judaism from the time of Abraham was the blood sacrifice to God. It is how God communicated to his followers.

    Even though Abraham is supposed to be the Father of Judaism the role of the blood sacrifice goes into the myth of Cain and Able. Cain offers the best of his produce, Able offers a blood sacrifice which God recognizes. This is the exact example where God chooses a blood sacrifice over any other kind and he chooses it from the 2 first brothers, sons of Adam and Eve.

    Without the blood sacrifice Old Judaism died. Nothing can substitute that. It is the demand of God and no temple can be built after the 2nd Temple. That is the last Temple. When Solomon’s Temple (the first temple) was destroyed the Arch of the covenant was removed. In that covenant was the physical writing of God.

    From Abraham he demands his own son. Regardless that a substitute was placed at the end the demand was fulfilled thousands of years later when Yahweh came to earth as Christ and Sacrificed a son to a Father. Yahweh became the sacrifice to himself the Father fulfilling the demand he made of Abraham. With that sacrifice Old Judaism died

    It also died when all the Levite Priests were destroyed. They were chosen by God to make the Sacrifice and no other priest could do it. Christ is Yahweh and the Jews were supposed to recognize Christ as Yahweh and follow him. The sacrifice became the Holy communion.

    Most Jews converted. what remained created a new faith based on a new writing in the Babylonian Talmud and moved away from the Torah. the writings of the Babylonian Talmud is a collection of laws and myths, many of them having nothing to do with the Torah. The Synagogue of Europe has nothing to do with the Temple of Jerusalem. Even Maimonides agreed that the Levites were gone.

  11. yet god speaking though his prophets differs from you . blood sacrifice is not the most important thing that god demanded of his people . the prophets were preaching this 500 to 700 years before christ .

    “Old Judaism” did not die with the destruction of the temple, the end of blood sacrifice (which some say continues on mount gerizim with the samaritan sacrifice of lambs at passover), nor the dispersal of the tribe of levite . it continues today with the tradition of the jewish communities centered around the hebrew scriptures and the synagogue . and they, after the destruction of the second temple, emphatically emphasized that which god demanded first of all :

    “…cease to do evil,
    learn to do good;
    seek justice,
    rescue the oppressed,
    defend the orphan,
    plead for the widow.”

    i doubt that you have any good sources–based on evidence–that “most jews converted.” at most you might make the case that, after constantine made christianity the religion of the empire, being jewish was more difficult .

    your last paragraph makes a number of claims that are at best argumentative and at worse are without basis in scholarship .

  12. That is the mantra you are told to buy and you are wrong because the levites were destroyed, none survived. Maimonides stated that himself.
    The Holy communion continued the miracle of the sacrifice which Christians commune with God in the same manner Jews communed with God.
    Today the Holocaust is seen as the ultimate “sacrifice’ and some even elevate the Holocaust above the Resurrection. All of these are … sacrifices

  13. mantras ? you are the one using repetition .

    god does not want sacrifices . so levites are not needed just as they are not needed for the eucharist .

    “Today…is seen as the ultimate “sacrifice’….” analogies are not theological truths . just analogies that may or may not enlighten the subject .

  14. God wanted blood sacrifices and attested to that from the time of Cain and Able to Abraham and all the way down to the Temple of Solomon. The Levite Priests were chosen by God and cannot be replaced. The holy communion is the replacement in Christianity which the Talmudic Jews refuse to acknowledge.

  15. The Torah is clear to all of us. You are bypassing significant aspects of the Old testament. Stick to the Torah.

  16. the samaritans stick only to the torah . jews and christians hold to the whole of the jewish scriptures .

  17. Christians should assimilate by acknowledging that an inquisition inflicted upon non-Christians has never been a successful recruiting tactic. History has documented this – repeatedly.

  18. More garbage from our newest neo-nazi slimeball. Quelle Surprise!

  19. It is not likely a neo-nazi like yourself is going to present anything concerning Judaism in an honest or knowledgeable light.

    One can use your posts as an example of how similar all forms of sectarian hate speech are.

    Your nonsense is on par with the hysterical self-proclaimed experts on Islam who pop up here regularly as well. Also similar to the usual anti-Catholic rants which come from Evangelicals, Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists.

  20. Why should they assimilate? This isn’t a Christian nation. America has always been a very diverse country, perhaps it is the Christians (like yourself) that should assimilate, as in accepting this great diversity.

  21. You should probably take the time to explain to everyone about the Edomites and adamites and all of the rest of the antisemitic claptrap you people drink like koolaid.

    Please do explain it all. Now is your chance!

  22. Civilized people call the holocaust mass murder, genocide, and the end point of 1900 years of vicious antisemitism.

    Your mileage may vary.

  23. A god that demands blood sacrifices. What a grown up concept that is.

  24. Christians have nothing to do with the Talmud. you know that.

  25. During Christmas the only thing one needs to explain is the Evil Jewish King Herod and his slaughter of the innocents

  26. Ok, now it’s the day after Christmas. So, as I said, please explain the rest of it.

  27. since i did not bring up the subject of the talmud or say anything about it, i have no idea what you think you are saying .

  28. It was God’s request for Jews to assimilate into Christianity. Don’t blame me.

  29. Oh you again. You must be that Grinch who hates Christmas

  30. ” jews and christians hold to the whole of the jewish scriptures”

  31. Like the Gollum, hiding under a rock, hating Christmas and all that it stands for. Come out into the light

  32. Nonsense. I love Christmas. and it stands for whatever you, I, or anyone else think it stands for.
    But of course, that isn’t really what we’re talking about, is it? You’re just changing the subject from anti-semitism to what you imagine about me.

  33. Depends on how much of the Holocaust is myth and how much is reality, but this is not the time to discuss the Holocaust, this is Christmas season, save this time for Christ.

  34. Ben
    Then include Jesus Christ in your paranoid AntiSemitic rant. He spoke against the Rabbis and predicted the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem. He is Yahweh and the Jews rejected him as God.
    King Herod wanted baby Jesus killed so enough with your rant on Christmas eve.

  35. please do your homework . the talmud is no more part of the hebrew scriptures than, say, the writings of st augustine are part of the christian scriptures .

  36. A rather inartful dodge. Try again.
    #weaktea
    #lame

  37. There is an animal shelter that feeds left over food for stray animals. you should fit right in.

  38. Aw poor neo nazi nabob feels left out of an adult conversation.

    Your posts are as welcomed as explosive diarrhea in a church.

    Seek help.

  39. The Jews worship Yahweh and have done so since they wrote their scriptures. Now you are telling them they don’t understand their own writings? After thousands of years Rome comes along and tells them to worship someone other than God–and if they don’t they’re doomed to a Greek underworld of flames? Please.

  40. I just read your comment. First of all Spuddie the nut job has called me every name in the book yet you have never called him or it for that,strange.
    secondly now that I think about it, I paid spuddie a compliment. Animals are noble creatures and he certainly is not.

  41. Not a real Nazi, a neo-nazi. A poor pathetic loser who idolizes the people who are a byword for Barbarians of the 20th Century. As Christian as they come. 🙂

  42. Seriously Michael – Spud is called out all the time.
    We don’t need to make ourselves as bad as him to make our points though. We’re on the right side

  43. You must have a secret fetish for Nazis. bet you dress in full regalia in the privacy of your room.

  44. You are the one who tried to regale me with their nonsense. Quoting them, demanding to see film depictions of the bombing of Dresden, trying to deny history of their misdeeds.

    My family has a history of putting those kinds of people in the ground. Of course if you had a spine, your comment history would be public, like mine.

  45. Yes Jews are guilty of a lot of lies and crime. Pointing that out is good.

  46. and you have the option of simply blocking me if I am so offensive to you. You choose not to block me then you accuse me of being offensive. You are the one who is coming after me and the moderator should know that.

  47. Nah, this is more fun.

    After all I do not have the embarrassing posting history to hide from others.

    Nor do I have views which involve maliciously lying about others and well established facts.

    If you don’t want to be criticized for your views, tough luck. Try being less bigoted and more honest. 🙂

  48. so why are Jews habitual liars? and why is this myth called the holocaust shoved into our lives.? maybe you can explain it to me.

  49. Projection much there?

    So far the only habitual liar here is you. Holocaust denial is nothing but malicious lying, as proven in public nearly 20 years ago. (See http://www.hdot.org)

    Nobody ever has to pretend a holocaust denier has something intelligent to say. It is why they went scurrying for cover nearly a generation ago. They only came out again when the US elected a white supremacist. You are too late to that party.

    Nobody needs to hear the whining of a johnny come lately neo-nazi trash spouting obvious garbage.

  50. Why deny facts? In 1988 Auschwitz officially lowered the number from 4 million to 1 million or 500 thousand actually killed or died.
    De-Nile is not a river in Egypt. Get with it

  51. Nope.

    General Rule of thumb, all holocaust deniers (like Mikey here) are neo-nazis. (See also Roy Hobs)

  52. I don’t know why you deny facts, other than malice and the fun of trollery. But you clearly do.

    Interesting that you don’t cite to a source and it dates to before the entirety of Holocaust denial went up in flames in 2001 when David Irving showed the world it was all dishonest crap. (As seen in http://www.hdot.org)

    Actually as of 2013, evidence shows the estimates of the deaths and even the extent of the death camp system was vastly UNDERESTIMATED for decades.
    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/has-holocaust-history-just-been-rewritten-astonishing-new-research-shows-nazi-camp-network-targeting-8518407.html

    Why you have to lie so often and so much? Aren’t there Reddit boards full of people less likely to call you out on this kind of bullcrap?

  53. Spud, truthfully, after many of our conversations, I am less and less likely to believe what you say

  54. Whatevs. I generally source facts when I assert them. Especially when called out.

    But what I said before is a pretty obvious one you can check out yourself. You won’t see a holocaust denier who isn’t a rabid anti-semite / neo-nazi.

  55. So why do we have so many Holocaust memorials? I mean we are the ones who rescued them. and the Holocaust happened in Europe between Europeans. why do we need to remember?

  56. I see you are changing the subject. You taking to whining as opposed to just lying.

    We have memorials to keep liars like you from pretending such atrocity never happened. To try to ensure it never happens again there or elsewhere.

    ” I mean we are the ones who rescued them.”

    Who is “we” here? I don’t see any sign that you have any claim as to that.

    My grandfathers both fought in the ETO. They can lay the claim for that, as are the Allied and Soviet forces who fought there. But no category where you would fit in.

  57. So what happened in your life for you to go around forums attacking commenters on anything Jewish. Did other kids throw spit blls at you calling you naughty names or is it due to your body odor? did you wash properly. Is it only during the holidays when that bad uncle shows up?

  58. OMG are you in love with me or my avatar? it is only a picture of the Buddha.

  59. Sorry, Buddy its not about me. Its about showing you, a neo-nazi liar doesn’t need to be treated in a civil manner here or elsewhere

    I couldn’t care less to speculate why lying bigoted trolls like you infest online discussions.

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