Arts & Culture

Elena Kagan and Jews Eating Chinese Food on Christmas

On Christmas Day, 2007, I found myself riding an empty bus around the streets of Chicago.  I was staying for a short time in the city of my birth, and found myself without company on what is traditionally the quietest … Read More

By / June 30, 2010

On Christmas Day, 2007, I found myself riding an empty bus around the streets of Chicago.  I was staying for a short time in the city of my birth, and found myself without company on what is traditionally the quietest day of the year.  I don’t usually do anything special on the 25th of December.  Maybe I’ll lounge around my apartment in boxer shorts and a Cosby sweater, eating ice cream straight from the carton, or maybe I’ll watch some Marx Brothers films that Ive seen a thousand times before.  All I know is, while people are huddled around their tree opening gifts, I’m tuned in to a day I like to call "24 hours of no rules."  I’ve got nobody to answer to, and I can do slobby shit that would make Jabba the Hut jealous. But on that particular day, I felt lonely.  My mother’s family, who had moved to the city in the early part of the 20th Century, had all moved away, lured to the Holy Land for secular Jews, Florida.  The city that I grew up in no longer felt like mine, and I rode the bus with nowhere to go.  I had a little gray cloud hovering over my head.  I shared my ride with a bus driver who wore a Santa Claus hat, and a drunk Polish man.  Destination unknown.  The Damen bus hit a stoplight at Irving Park Road, and out of the corner of my eye, I spotted something familiar, something welcoming.  The sign read: Orange Garden, Chop Suey, Chow Mein.  I alerted the bus driver to let me off.  As I exited, he wished me a merry Christmas.  I felt like telling him that I didn’t believe in his god or the inaccurate celebration of his birth, but refrained.  I walked across the street, and into one of the most satisfying meals of cheap Chinese cuisine I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.  There is something simple and great about Jews eating Chinese food on Christmas.  My family didn’t observe a long list of Jewish traditions, but Chinese food was one of them.  So yesterday, when Elena Kagan declared that she gets busy on Christmas Day eating Chinese food, just like most of us do, I’ll admit that a serious burst of pride shot through my being when a person who is possibly (hopefully) going to sit in the highest judicial seat in the land, made mention of one of my favorite Jewish traditions.