Christmas is a holiday that has transcended and been celebrated by several cultures. To some, it is a day to celebrate the birth of whom some call the savior but to others it is a day when a jolly, plump man in a red suit goes around giving toys away. One tradition linked to this holiday that sticks out like a sore thumb is the Jewish tradition to eat Chinese food.

For a while, people knew about the tradition, but it was not written in stone. It was just a custom that many Jewish people participated in without making a big deal about it, but that changed the day Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan participated in her confirmation hearing. On that day, Senator Lindsey Graham asked Elena where she spent her Christmas the previous year. It was a strange question to ask someone who is there to become a member of a body of government, but the question was asked anyway. Elena told the senator that she spent that December 25 in a Chinese restaurant like many other Jewish people. Everyone at the hearing thought her answer was amusing, and it helped liven up the room. 

Another senator pointed out that some Jewish people likely go to Chinese restaurants during this time because they are the only ones open, which is partly right. Historians will likely point out that Jewish people and people from China have been linked in other ways. For one, these two groups represented the largest chunks of non-Christians immigrants near the beginning of the last century. Sure, their restaurants were open during the holidays, but these groups were also linked because they were outsiders. 

New York City, a hotbed for immigrants, saw 400,000 Jews in 1899 turn to more than a million in a few short years. Some of these individuals wanted to experience culture and food beyond what they were used to. The Chinese population was perhaps the most welcoming at the time, and it gave many adventurous Jewish individuals the opportunity to try something exotic. 

Furthermore, Chinese cuisine consists of mostly vegetables and normally did not include dairy in their meals. This made it pretty easy for practicing Jews to eat at these restaurants without feeling guilty. The people from China did not observe Jewish traditions at all rather they simply followed their own dietary preferences, but it just so happened that these preferences matched Kosher foods. 

Sure, there were other options for Jewish people who wanted to try something exotic, such as Italian foods or Mexican foods, but both of these cultures used ingredients that were not Kosher. This does not mean the Jewish people that ate at Chinese restaurants were not careful with their meal choices since pork and shellfish is used in some traditional Chinese dishes. 

It should be noted that Chinese food has changed throughout the years to accommodate Jewish people and Americans as a whole. Perhaps this is the reason people from China say that Chinese food from the US is not authentic. Foods like orange chicken and General Tso are not eaten in China, but these are just results of cultural fusion. American Chinese food is just the result of blending cultures, and it is quite exciting to see the results. It may be strange to say that Jewish Christmas is linked to Chinese cuisine, but it is. There is no telling what changes the influence from the Jewish community is going to have on American Chinese food, but foodies probably cannot wait for them.