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28 DEC

Jews and Chinese food on Christmas

By Jeff Lichtenstein

Trivia Question: Where did the tradition of Jews eating Chinese food on Xmas come from?


This year after making my annual Christmas day reservation at Mr. Zhang’s, I hung up the phone and began to laugh. I called my mom who immediately asked me “what’s so funny” and I told her that I found it funny we all follow this tradition and have no idea why. Mom quickly fessed up that she did not have a clue as to why Jews ate Chinese food on Christmas, but that I should be a good daughter and get back to her with the answer. I knew she wanted to look smart at her next Mahjong game at the club. Mom asks so little of me these days that I just had to follow-up for her. Once I did some research I found it interesting and wanted to share it with others. The tradition actually dates back to the turn of the century and is a small glimpse into interesting immigration history. The Jews and Chinese were the two largest non-Christian immigrant groups. It quickly became apparent that there was a striking similarity between Chinese and Jewish cuisine. In Jewish law, the mixing of meat and milk is not allowed because of the rules of keeping “Kosher”. Chinese food became a popular food choice because dairy was excluded from almost all of their dishes. I’m a huge fan of Italian and Mexican but almost all of their dishes combines meat and dairy. Therefore, by default, Chinese food became the safest food choice for Jews when wanting to explore other cultural cuisines. Additional interesting commonalities are that both Jewish and Chinese food are both relatively inexpensive, are marked by sweet and sour flavors, and they both avoid dairy and meat combinations

As Jews spread out to Brooklyn, Queens and other boroughs and suburbs – so did Chinese restaurants. With every other eatery closed for Christmas – Jews needed somewhere to eat….and Moo-shoo was what they wanted! So in a nutshell – if you are Jewish and find yourself in a Chinese restaurant this year….now you know why. Now please pass the lo-mein!


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Posted in Uncategorized on December 28, 2016 at 1:10 pm.


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