Tasty Travels: Christmas Edition


Valeria Velasquez

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…
My first Christmas in the United States was a memorable one. First of all, a magical precipitation known as snow fell. Second of all, the extreme materialistic implications of American Christmas really took off with my family, particularly with my aunt, who showered me with more toys than I’d seen in my lifetime. Lastly, instead of eating Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve like my family would have done in my native country, I faced my despicable, copy-paper tasting foe once again: turkey. The experiences that crafted that Christmas not only made me feel like I was stuck in “A Christmas Story,” it provided a new definition for what an ideal Christmas consisted of.
According to an article by pewresearch.org, one in 10 Americans celebrate Christmas, but less than half of Americans claim they celebrate Christmas for non-religious reasons. In my mind, the fact that Christmas often blurs the line between a religious celebration and a cultural one, makes it particularly noteworthy. Perhaps there is no other religiously-rooted holiday that is interpreted and celebrated in so many distinct ways around the world.
On this edition of Tasty Travels, I’ll be discussing some traditions that take place on December 25 that are far more unknown then opening presents on Christmas morning.
Surprisingly enough, Japan has a unique Christmas tradition of its own, despite the fact that roughly one percent of its population is Christian. According to an article on businessinsider.org, prior to 1970, the 25th of December was just another day for the average Japanese family. Taking inspiration from the traditional American turkey dinner, a 1974 promotion for KFC Christmas chicken went national, eventually making Christmas festivities synonymous with the action of taking a trip to KFC for a bucket of fried chicken. Eating fried chicken on December 25 is so ingrained into the Japanese definition, that many KFC Christmas buckets have to be pre-ordered, unless one is  willing to wait hours in a line.
While the marketing power of secular Christmas traditions are definitely strategies maximized into by big corporations, some Christmas traditions (while still very profitable) stem from the need to create an excuse to even celebrate the holiday. The cliché of Jews eating Chinese food on Christmas is something I hadn’t heard of until I watched a BuzzFeed video — the pinnacle of discovering the quirky, random and unknown. After further research, however, it became clear that the interesting tradition had far more complex roots. According to an article on myjewishlearning.com, the combination of a Jewish and Chinese Christmas began when Jews from the Lower East Side of Manhattan began spending their Christmas dinners at nearby Chinese restaurants, which were the only establishments open. Both Jewish and Chinese communities lacked a substantial meaning for the 25th of December, in an American society so consumed by stories of a charitable white old man and the birth of Jesus. The popularity of Jewish Christmas became so profitable that many Chinese restaurants created special Jewish-Christmas menus.
Even if some people place little importance on the supposed birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the event that defines Christmas, that same crowd may harbor a special significance for the ever famous December 25.
Perhaps it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas…in so many different ways.