Christmas: The Busiest Day for Chinese Restaurants

Image Credit: Chili House SF

Chinese restaurants remaining open on Christmas Day might sound cliché, but many do so for good reasons. For one thing, it is typically extremely profitable for them. People looking for a little something different on December 25 flock to both Chinese and Thai restaurants for lunch or dinner. Whether it is a traveler looking for a meal far from home or a person who simply prefers to go out on Christmas, the site of an “Open” sign on this holiday is often a welcome one.

The Busiest Day of the Year for Many Local Chinese Restaurants

People who dine at Chinese restaurants on Christmas Day do so for reasons as unique as they are. Perhaps someone is single and would spend the holiday alone if not for going to a Chinese restaurant. People of non-Christian faiths or no faith have no sentimental tie to Christmas and want a good meal on that day just as they would any of the other 364 days of the year. For others, it can also be a novel thing to do on a holiday traditionally associate with ham, rolls, and other standard American fare.

The owners of local Chinese restaurants, some of whom celebrate Christmas themselves, begin preparing for the onslaught of customers towards the end of November. This includes hours of cutting meats and vegetables as well as seasoning and marinating the meat. Some restaurant owners go out of their way to include a special touch such as individually wrapping pieces of dim sum. When they look out the door on Christmas Day, they can see the rewards of their efforts. It is not uncommon to see people lined up before the restaurant even opens for the day.

When Did the Association Between Christmas Day and Chinese Restaurants Begin?

This tradition of Chinese food on Christmas dates way back to the late 1800s when non-Christian immigrants found themselves with nowhere to go on Christmas Day. They often had the time off work, which they enjoyed spending with their families because it was so rare. However, they had no real traditions of their own. The owners of Chinese restaurants soon noticed this dilemma and opened their doors to the immigrants. They enjoyed delicious food and a welcoming environment on a day when they normally felt out of place in their new country.

This tradition only grew stronger at the start of the 1900s and beyond. People new to America saw it as a way to celebrate a different culture while still enjoying the opportunities that their new country offered. Soon, they began flocking to Chinese restaurants on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve as well. It makes the ideal option for getting away from the crowds and noise normally associated with the biggest Christian holiday of the year.

The tradition of immigrants eating lunch or dinner at a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day originated in New York City. However, it quickly made its way to San Francisco due to the large immigrant population from China. More than 100 years later, anyone who desires Chinese food on December 25 has numerous options to find it.

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