Chinese Food & Jewish Christmas + a Joke

Main Piece:

How would you describe this tradition?

“For American Jewry, frequently if they don’t have friends or family to spend Christmas with, they needed somewhere to go on Christmas when everything was closed, and one thing that seemed to be open was Chinese food restaurants, which were not closed on Christmas. And there’s a joke that goes along with this: If it’s the Jewish year 5749 and the Chinese year 4257, what did the Jews do for 1276 years? All my numbers are wrong, but it works because the Jewish calendar is older than the Chinese calendar. And this tradition is national.”


The informant is my father. He was raised culturally Jewish, and his career is within the science field. This information was collected during a family zoom call where we were checking in with each other. Jewish people tend to not celebrate Christmas because anything related to the figure of Jesus isn’t a part of Jewish scripture. 


I have consumed Dim Sum (a category of Chinese food) every Christmas day for as long as I can remember. A tradition that emerged out of convenience became something to look forward to every year. If my family sees other non-Chinese people at the Dim Sum restaurant on Christmas, we probably know them because they’re members of our synagogue. The joke emphasizes how widespread this tradition is, and how reliant Jews have become on Chinese food to feed themselves every Christmas. Getting Chinese food on Christmas has become a stereotype, so much so that even some Jewish Channukah merchandise includes images of Chinese takeout.