On December 25, what foods do you eat? If you celebrate Christmas, you probably sit with family and enjoy some of your favorite holiday dishes.

If you’re Jewish American, it’s quite likely that December 25 means lo mein, egg rolls, and orange chicken. You might know it as Chinese takeout, Americanized Chinese food, or simply Chinese food. Whatever you call it, the food served at Chinese American restaurants is its own, authentic cuisine.

Jewish Americans have been eating out during the winter holiday season at Chinese American restaurants since at least 1935.[1] This nationwide trend first started in New York City because of the geographical proximity of Eastern European Jewish and Chinese neighborhoods. When both groups of immigrants first came to the city, Jews settled into Manhattan’s Lower East Side and Chinese into nearby Chinatown.[2] Being so close to one another would have guaranteed the two cultures brushed elbows and some things, like taste in food, were ultimately shared.

In vogue throughout the early to mid 20th century, Chinese American restaurants were seen as cosmopolitan spaces. Americans were enamored with the food, and diners at these restaurants were seen as refined and cultured.[3]

Where did these restaurants come from? How did they become so popular? Learn more about the fascinating history of Chinese American restaurants at Chow: Making the Chinese American Restaurant, now on show at the Museum of Food and Drink.

Hilton guests save 20% on admission to Chow: Making the Chinese American Restaurant when booking the ‘Holidays in NYC‘ package.

 

 

[1] Robert Seigel, “Why Do Jewish People Eat Chinese Food On Christmas?,” National Public Radio, December 25, 2017, https://www.npr.org/2017/12/25/573415894/why-do-jewish-people-eat-chinese-food-on-christmas.

[2] Melissa Kravitz, “Why do Jews Eat Chinese Food on Christmas? How the Tradition has Evolved over 100 Years,” Mic, December 14, 2016, https://mic.com/articles/161093/why-do-jews-eat-chinese-food-on-christmas-how-the-tradition-has-evolved-over-100-years#.zIdKrvmTD.

[3] Gaye Tuchman, and Harry G. Levine, “‘Safe Treyf:’ New York Jews and Chinese Food,” Contemporary Ethnography, vol 22, no. 3 (1992): 382-407, https://tbshamden.com/images/TBScontent/safetreyf.pdf.

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