Why is Chinese Food so Popular on Christmas?


‘Tis the season to dine out and munch on Chinese food. This week is the busiest time of year for many Chinese restaurants. I did some research to see why every year, Chinese restaurants are packed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Chinese food is particularly popular on Christmas because it provides an option to non-Christians and those who do not celebrate Christmas that get the day off. Other foreign cuisines are similarly popular on Christmas Day.

It turns out that Christmas Day and Christmas Eve are the two busiest days for Chinese restaurants out of the entire year! In this article, I’ll tell you why, and how you can enjoy your day off if you don’t celebrate Christmas.

The History of Chinese Food on Christmas

Chinese food has been popular on Christmas for at least a hundred years. Particularly since the late 1800s, countless immigrants have come to America and worked in American industry. 

For many immigrants, their home cultures don’t celebrate Christmas, so the immigrants don’t celebrate either. But working for American businesses, they would usually be given a day off on Christmas anyway, and often Christmas Eve too.

With a day off from work but no particular traditions or events in mind, many decide to relax on Christmas by eating out. The most popular choice is Chinese food. Some other cuisines see noticeable increases in business on Christmas too. If you’re looking for something good to eat on Christmas, check out:

  • Halal
  • Indian
  • Dim Sum
  • Kosher
  • Thai
  • Vietnamese

The immigrants of the past may have particularly enjoyed eating Chinese food on their day off because it represented the American cultural melting pot. It’s affordable, exotic, delicious, and a cross-cultural American staple!

Are Chinese Food Places Open On Christmas?

Many Chinese food businesses focus on availability – they stay open to late hours of the night, deliver, offer take-out, and stay open on holidays. As it turns out, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are the two busiest days of the entire year for Chinese restaurants.

Due to the peak in business, almost all Chinese restaurants are open on Christmas. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a Chinese restaurant, you can search on Google Maps or Yelp to find one near you.

In fact, many Chinese restaurants get so busy on Christmas that you will need a reservation. It never hurts to give the restaurant a call to make sure they’re open and to reserve your table.

If they’re too busy for you to get a table, or if they’re not offering dine-in services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can also order and enjoy take-out.

Demand for Chinese Food on Christmas

Chinese restaurants are busy on Christmas for good reason – there’s a huge demand for alternative food options than cooking. Many restaurants receive requests to stay open on Christmas day so that their patrons have a place to eat.

Some demographic groups particularly love eating Chinese on Christmas, such as the Jewish. In fact, it’s become a bit of a Jewish-American tradition to eat Chinese food on Christmas. 

Chinese restaurants provide a safe haven for Jews who feel like outsiders on the holiday. The Chinese don’t celebrate Christmas either, so the Jews feel like insiders with them.

According to author Joshua Plaut, Jews also enjoy Chinese food because it’s non-kosher in an inconspicuous way. If a dish contains pork, it is often contained in an egg roll or wonton, and you don’t see it when you eat it. Milk is also not used in Chinese food. Even though it’s not kosher, you can pretend it is.

Besides, Chinese food is delicious.

Competitors Aren’t Open

One reason that Chinese restaurants stay open on Christmas is that so many of their competitors are closed. This further drives up demand for their food and explains why they’re so busy.

On Christmas Day, only a few restaurants in town will be open, so your options for dinner are limited if you want to eat out. Chances are, the local Chinese place will be open, while the traditionally-Christian Italian, French, or Mexican place will be closed.

Since they know everyone else will be closed, Chinese restaurants seize the opportunity to corner the food market and stay open. Besides Chinese, not a lot of other options are available.

What Else is Open on Christmas?

Many people love eating out on Christmas. Even Christians who celebrate the holiday sometimes like to eat out instead of cooking an elaborate meal. Besides Chinese food, what else can you eat on Christmas?

For food, other traditionally non-Christian cuisines are often open as well. Hours of franchise restaurants like Burger King vary from location to location. Make sure to give a call to double-check.

Convenience and grocery stores also have limited availability on Christmas and other holidays. Check their website and give them a call to see when they’re open.

Besides food, there are plenty of other popular activities that you can enjoy on your day off.

Other Great Activities on Christmas

For those who don’t celebrate Christmas, there are a few options for entertainment on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The most popular activity of all is to go see a movie. Most movie theaters are open on Christmas, and many movies come out on Christmas Day. As with Chinese food dining, I’d recommend calling ahead and reserving a seat if you can, as most movie theaters will be packed.

Other fun activities include:

  • Visiting tourist attractions. Many tourist attractions don’t close on Christmas either, and usually, they aren’t as busy as the rest of the year. Christmas is a great time to stroll around your local museums and attractions without the crowds.
  • Outdoor activities and parks. Parks are open year-round, of course, and like tourist attractions, they aren’t as crowded on Christmas. Go for a stroll and enjoy the outdoors on a nice winter day.
  • Visit a hotel. Hotels don’t close on Christmas either, and hotel rooms have plenty of amenities too. Relax by getting out of the house and staying in a hotel for a night.
  • Volunteering. Many people don’t have access to food or a place to stay on Christmas. If you have the day off and want to spread some cheer, you could volunteer to help out at the local shelter, soup kitchen, or food bank.
  • Catch-up day. On any day-off, you could always use it to catch up on the things you’re behind on. You could spend the day catching up on your article, research, creative work, or another project. Alternatively, you could just kick back, relax, and watch TV or read for a while. 
  • Spend time with others. If you’re not celebrating Christmas, you’re not alone. Try reaching out to your friends. There’s a good chance you’ll find someone else who has the day off without plans, not celebrating. You could hang out with them. Even if you don’t celebrate, you could also spend the day with your family.

Why Chinese Food is so Popular on Christmas

Chinese food is especially popular on Christmas because it follows a business model of availability, providing food when others don’t. Since competitors are closed, Chinese restaurants become quite busy on Christmas.

Chinese food is an American cultural experience that can be shared by anyone, even if you don’t celebrate Christmas. This tradition goes back over 100 years to when immigrants had the day off with no festive plans of their own. It provided an affordable, delicious option for them, as it continues to today.

On a day where not celebrating Christmas makes many feel like outsiders, eating Chinese food is a way for Jews and other ethnic groups to joyfully celebrate their American heritage.

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