Chinese restaurants stay open on Christmas Day
By Carl Samson
December 26, 2023
Many Chinese restaurants across the country remained open on Christmas Day, upholding a tradition that gives patrons the space to share warm meals on a busy holiday.
Driving the news: The tradition appears to have been born out of a lack of Christmas celebrations in traditional Chinese culture. As a result, many Chinese restaurants have opted to stay open during the holiday, allowing people somewhere to be when nearly everything else is closed.
“We have decided since everywhere else is closed, why don’t we open for the people if they don’t have time to make food or if they want something quick and easy,” Edison Yang, who helps run the family-owned Wonder Wok Restaurant and Bar in Eugene, Oregon, told KEZI 9 News.
With less competition, business booms. “Usually, I’d like to say around 40 orders per 30 minutes,” Joe Zhou, manager of Gold Chopsticks in West Springfield, Massachusetts, told WWLP. “We have several third-party platforms, especially DoorDash is the most popular.”
When it started: It is unknown when exactly the tradition came to be, but Chinese restaurants have been a place to gather on Christmas for one group since at least 1935. Rabbi Joshua Plaut, author of “A Kosher Christmas: ‘Tis the Season to be Jewish,” told NPR in 2017 that The New York Times had published the first written citation of Jews eating Chinese food on Christmas in that year.
“A man by the name of Eng Shee Chuck brought chow mein on Christmas Day to the Jewish Children’s Home in Newark, New Jersey. That’s the first written citation of Jews eating Chinese food on Christmas,” Plaut recalled.
Twin Dragon, one of the oldest Chinese restaurants in the heart of Jewish Los Angeles, wins on Christmas. “It’s the busiest day of the year,” manager Amanda Tang told the Los Angeles Times.
Some exceptions: While many Chinese restaurants maintain the tradition, some have chosen to opt out to help staff workers “breathe.” One such business is Red Dragon in Spokane, Washington.
“I just want to make sure people have a good time, it’s not rushed and not too chaotic,” owner Will Burris told the Spokesman-Review of Red Dragon, which is part of a larger group of Chinese restaurants owned by his wife’s family. “We’ve had some really chaotic Christmases.”
Still, the tradition looks poised to stay: last year, Yelp searches for Chinese restaurants on Christmas were 99% higher than any other day in December, Axios reported. Additionally, Google searches for “Chinese food” have peaked on Christmas since 2004, the outlet noted.
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