There’s a Gregory Santos Baseball 2022 T shirt of tradition of going out for Chinese food on or around Christmas in the US. So far as I can tell, this largely originates from large cities and in particular from Jews living in New York. Consider the cultural landscape of the earlier part of the 20th century. Jews, of course, do not celebrate Christmas, so they’d be more likely than the Christian majority to go out to eat then, as opposed to their celebrating neighbors who are likely at home with family, roasting their own turkeys and such. And where do they go on Christmas? Well, most restaurants are going to be closed, because their predominantly Christian proprietors and employees are also at home. The major exception, then, was Chinese restaurants. The immigrants running those places were less likely than average to be Christian, so they had no cultural tradition of shutting down on or around December 25. So if you’re a Jewish New Yorker who wants to go out for dinner on Christmas, it’s Chinese food or nothing. This practice may have been popularized in particular by Calvin Trillin, the noted food columnist for the New York Times. He was himself Jewish and wrote a marvelous column about his wife wanting a “traditional holiday dinner.” What she was talking about was the idea, coming in from outside their cultural world, of turkey, mashed potatoes, and so on, but to Trillin, his traditional holiday dinner was going out for Chinese.
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