We've all heard the cliché that those not partaking in Christmas celebrations at home, particularly Jews, usually seek out Chinese food for dinner that night since those kind of restaurants are usually the only places open.
The tradition is more than just a stereotype, as Adam Chandler at The Atlantic recently explained in a deep dive about where the idea that American Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas came from. To give you the long and short of it, Chinese and Jewish populations during the turn of the century in New York could relate to each other based on their immigrant status and the lack of dairy products in their cuisines. In fact, Chinese food has become a part of Jewish life in America.
The connection between Christmas and Chinese food was of course forever immortalized in pop culture by the 1983 Christmas movie classic A Christmas Story, when Ralphie's family enjoys their Christmas dinner in a Chinese restaurant after their planned holiday meal is ruined.
But is this actually a thing? Sure, I've heard of people going out for some Chinese on Christmas every year as a wink at the so-called tradition, but is it just a joke or is this actually an integral part of the holiday season?
It turns out more people eat Chinese food on Christmas than you think. And they're not all Jewish.
Slate's Ben Blatt recently analyzed some data from the online takeout food service GrubHub. The company did not provide him with raw volume of orders from various cuisines, but they did give him data of the proportion of total sales for different types of food and how they compared on certain days.
It turns out that on Dec. 25, 2013, orders of Chinese food increased by 152 percent. Wow. That's a lot of fried rice. As a point of comparison, orders for restaurants listed as American, pizza or Mexican declined by 30 percent. Unsurprisingly, there's also a jump in Chinese food orders on Christmas Eve, increasing 50 percent on that day. Is anyone else hankering for an egg roll right about now?
And what are people ordering when they decide to eat Chinese food right before they chow down on their Christmas cookies? General Tso's chicken is by far the most popular Chinese food dish ordered on GrubHub, with crab rangoon, egg rolls, sesame chicken and wonton soup following behind. In fact, General Tso's chicken is actually the fourth most popular menu item ordered on GrubHub all year long.
The Washington Post's Wonkblog found similar evidence of Chinese food's increased popularity on Christmas. The past several years have shown a big jump in Google searches for the term "Chinese food" around Christmas time.
However, in his Slate article, Blatt is quick to point out that GrubHub data also shows that compared to Chinese food orders five days before and five days after, Christmas day orders were "slightly lower." So it seems that on Christmas, a homecooked meal still reigns supreme.
Image: David Prasad / Flickr