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Chinese Food and a Movie :: Jensen Karp Uncovers a Jewish Christmas Mystery!

Chinese Food and a Movie :: Jensen Karp Uncovers a Jewish Christmas Mystery!

This piece was originally published in 2016.

I’m going to be honest with you here. I originally pitched this article to The Hundreds assuming it would be a pretty harmless and cute holiday piece. I’d involve some Jewish friends, I’d throw in my normal pop culture reference jokes, and we’d all have a good time. But little did I know that by just asking Jews what they do on December 25th, I would open my own eyes to something totally fucking insane. Like when we realized Jay Z and Beyoncé were in the Illuminati, my eyes are open to the truth and I can’t ever forget it.

I used to think that when aliens eventually invaded our planet to exterminate our species (pre-Trump realizations), they would be most confused by things like the idea that there once was a hit TV show called Heroes and one of the main characters was an Asian guy name Hiro. But that was before this article. You see, I asked The Hundreds if I could innocently survey a few of my favorite creative and hilarious Jewish pals, being of the Tribe myself, to tell me what they did on the day that we all feel the most left out—Christmas Day. And they said, “Sure, why not?” Now I assumed, and I think The Hundreds did too, that I’d get a wide array of answers like: celebrate with Catholic friends, go to Ojai and get a massage, write one of those shitty Divergent movies—but instead I stumbled upon something that can only be described as terrifying.

Keep in mind, the only thing I told these people was “let me know what you do on Christmas Day as a Jew,” and waited for their responses. As they rolled in one by one, slowly but surely, I saw a pattern. And not just a pattern; AN EXACT FUCKING REPLICA OVER AND OVER. After 7 repeated messages, I just looked to the sky and said, “WHAT THE FUCK?” But listen, it makes sense. Because just like everyone I asked, I also eat Chinese food and see a movie on Christmas Day. And I’ve been doing it since I was a teen. Without ever asking why. Or thinking it’s a weird custom. And maybe you don’t see this being a big deal, and you knew about this tradition, but here’s a few things to keep in mind.


1. EVERYONE SAID THE SAME THING. Either see a movie or eat Chinese Food, and mostly both. That’s an insane coincidence and stop denying that.

2. Imagine if another religion or race had a ritual like this. For example, what if every Mormon went mini-golfing and to a deli on St. Patty’s Day. Or if every Asian ate hot dogs and played Laser Tag on Chanukah. This is an ape shit concept and I’m part of the problem and we should notice its insanity.

3. Who started this? It’s not like we have proof that Moses had egg rolls and watched that new Casey Affleck movie the day Jesus was resurrected. Much like the story about Richard Gere getting a gerbil stuck up his ass, it’s something we’ve all just heard over time and somehow turned it into fact.

4. If the Alt-Right finds out about this, they’re going to outlaw it, so please don’t tell them.

Anyway, so here are the answers I was given by some of my favorite creators when I asked them the simple question, “What do you do, as a Jew, on Christmas?” You tell me if I’m overreacting in the same way us Jews treat a cough.

Matthew Robinson (writer, Invention of Lying, upcoming Little Shop of Horrors)

I know it’s a cliché to say that, as a Jew, I eat Chinese food and go to the movies on Christmas, but that’s exactly what I do every Christmas. If you’re not Jewish and bored some Christmas day, go to ANY Chinese restaurant or movie theater. It’s like Jewish summer camp up in there. I know having a Jewish mother is the main criteria for being Jewish, but I think eating Golden Shrimp at Genghis Cohen at noon and then hitting up the Arclight for a double feature of most-likely-depressing award season movies on Christmas Day is just as qualifying.

Leslie Grossman (actress, What I Like About You, Popular)

On Christmas, we always see 3 movies. So we’re at the theater basically all day. Then (OF COURSE) we always go to Chinese for dinner. Your standard Jew Christmas Day. It’s kind of freeing to not celebrate Christmas.

“If you’re not Jewish and bored some Christmas day, go to ANY Chinese restaurant or movie theater. It’s like Jewish summer camp up in there.”

Shiri Appleby (actress/director, UnREAL, upcoming Lemon)

I grew up spending Christmas with family friends: setting up their trees, getting the gifts together for the kids, eating the cookies left out for Santa. When I did spend Christmas at home, it was a lazy day. We’d watch the parade on TV, go to a movie, eat Chinese, typical Jewish kid pretending Christmas wasn’t happening.

Lil’ Dicky (rapper)

It doesn’t always happen this way, but in my ideal scenario (and it has happened like 4 times), I will wake up, go to a movie theater with a few of my Jewish friends, pay for entry into a great movie, use my access from the first movie to sneak into a second movie, go home, order Chinese food, and then watch the NBA.


Ingrid Haas (actress, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Comedy Bang! Bang!)

I love Christmas! I grew up in a conservative Jewish home in Toronto, Canada. Historically, Jews are known to devour Chinese food on Christmas because it’s delicious and also because it’s usually the only place that’s open for business that night. Peter’s Chung King in Toronto was our spot for well over 20 years. My paternal grandmother loved taking us all out for Chinese food—so when I eat Chinese, I think of her.

I moved to LA seven years ago and I still make this my tradition. Chinese isn’t the only place open on Christmas in Los Angeles, but it’s the only place I’ll go. It just feels like home to me. I was in New Zealand visiting family with my brother and cousin in 2014 and on Christmas Eve our maternal grandmother, Nana, took us out for Chinese food. She was a very devout Christian, but she knew this was our tradition and did it for us. That was the last time I saw my Nana. She passed away this year. This tradition will never stop, if I have anything to do with it. Here’s to food and family and Chow Mein on the 25th, with the people you love.

“After we watch a screener… the young kids and the coolest elders all step outside to the stoop for the tradition of ‘The Smoking of the Weed.'” -Adam Pally

Adam Pally (actor, Happy Endings, upcoming Making History) 

Christmas Eve for non-observant Jews like myself is one of the highest of Holy Days. Every year, me, all my cousins, my aunts and uncles—we make plans to get as many Hollywood award screeners that we can get our hands on. Then we’ll take 1-3 hours for “deliberation over what to watch,” which is really a time to air all grievances with the world: Hollywood, politics, the draft coming from the family room, or a sinus infection that won’t go away.

During the deliberation, a large order of Asian take out food (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) will be ordered for delivery to the Upper West Side. After we watch a screener (most likely one with Tom Hanks or Meryl Streep), and after the fortune cookies are read, the young kids and the coolest elders all step outside to the stoop for the tradition of “The Smoking of the Weed.” Then the grown-ups tire out after scavenging last year’s Passover candy and the kids put on the screener that will eventually only win Best Screenplay.

Lisa Schwartz (actress/writer, YouTube, This Isn’t Working)

Our Jewish Christmas checked off every stereotype on the list. Bagels, lox, cream cheese, and an understanding that Santa was an Anti-Semite. That’s how I justified not getting presents. After stuffing our faces with gluten and watching at least three reruns of Seinfeld, we would pile in the car and drive up and down Ventura Boulevard to see what was open. We never went in anywhere, we just pointed and acknowledged that the people working there were either Jewish or hated their families. After, we’d nap for hours and then awake to go get Chinese food. Orange chicken, chow mein, and head nods to the other Jews drowning their lack of Jesus in soy sauce. An irrelevant fortune cookie, a little gas, and a drive back home. When we got in, we’d immediately light up our giant wooden Jewish star, wrapped in foil and blue tinsel, and continue the Seinfeld marathon. It wasn’t much, but it was ours.

Lauryn Kahn (writer)

I’m a Jew, so on Christmas Eve I get together with other Jews and go out for Chinese food. Sometimes Thai if we’re feeling crazy. Then we go to the movies. Not on Christmas Day though because all the Christians caught on to the movie game and took it from us so it’s just too crowded.

Colt Cabana (pro wrestler, podcaster)

In a perfect world, I’d wrestle on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. This year I booked a comedy-wrestling show for both days, which was as close as I could come to my dream. The night before X-mas I go to my friend Sam’s house (a Jewish dentist) and he has a cook-off. Since the restaurants aren’t open, we make our own meals. Mine usually suck. Christmas Day though, I’ll probably jerk off a whole bunch and watch Elf.

Zoë Hall (actress, La La Land, Grey’s Anatomy)

As a wise little Jewish boy from Colorado once sang, “It’s hard to be a Jew on Christmas.” How will this Christmas be different from all other Christmases? Probably won’t. I’ll carry on my tribe’s tradition of going to the movies and eating Chinese food (RIP Chef Peng Chang-kuei and also Phife). Merry Jew Year’s Eve-ukkah to Jew and jours. May God bless you and keep you and send you the best matches on Bumble.

Andrew Goldstein (writer, producer)

You know the phrase, “like a kid on Christmas morning”—used to describe how giddy little gentile boys and girls feel when they wake up knowing their toy collection is about to quadruple in size thanks to Santa Claus’s annual holiday delivery? That’s how I feel as a Jew on Christmas knowing how much money I just saved by not having to buy anyone anything. Honestly I bask in that glory for most of Christmas week. It’s how I imagine Scrooge McDuck must feel right before he nosedives into his bank vault like Greg Louganis. Sadly, my Hebrew hubris is ultimately short-lived however, since as a New Yorker, all of those yuletide savings end up going towards the multiple Donnie Brasco-style envelopes full of cash payouts I’m forced to slip my apartment building staff in order to maintain all the round-the-clock, ESSENTIAL services they provide me, like: opening the front door as I walk through it, handing me my J.Crew packages and NEVER being at their desk when I need them. So really all told, that plus the cost of Chinese food and a movie in Manhattan makes Christmas a huge net loss for me.

Eric Ledgin (writer, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Superstore)

On Christmas Day, I try to go to the movies for a triple-header. First a big dumb comedy, then a “deep” indie film, then tie it all together with an action thriller. I’m at an age where I’ll actually leave the theater and buy a new ticket instead of sneaking in, which only partially ruins it.

Gil Ozeri (the king of Snapchat, writer, Brooklyn Nine Nine)

I love Christmas, but because I can’t celebrate, it’s the biggest tease. On the actual day, I try not to think about what I’m missing so that A) I don’t break down in tears and B) because as a Jew, you’re not supposed to “covet your neighbor’s wife.” I try to do the Jewish thing and see a movie, but it usually ends up making me more depressed. Last year, I went to see that movie 45 Years with my mom. The theatre was on the Upper West Side and it was a nightmare. The place was filled with older blue-haired Jews, my mother fought with someone about seats, a gentleman coughed through the entire film while his wife slept next to him, AND (this is not a joke)—the concession stand sold lox (pic is below). Who needs Santa and a tree when you can eat smoked fish in a dark room surrounded by people who are actively dying?


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