Local Jewish comedian Lisa Geduldig has a joke that the Torah contains a hidden footnote stating that pork — normally forbidden for observant Jews — is only safe to eat if wrapped in a wonton.
While it’s just a joke, it reflects the fact that the link between Jewish people and Chinese food, especially around the holidays, has become an American holiday tradition, right up there with Christmas ham and pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.
Geduldig — founder and director of Kung Pao Kosher Comedy — has built a business helping anyone who wants to come to celebrate the holidays with Chinese food and Jewish comedy.
“Kung Pao comes from that tradition of Jews going to get Chinese food on Christmas Day,” Geduldig said. “A traditional Jewish activity on Christmas is Chinese food and a movie.”
The simple fact is that for people who don’t celebrate Christmas, trying to find a place to eat or relax can be difficult on Christmas Day, when most restaurants and stores are closed for the holiday.
The only refuge from the barren land of darkened restaurants and locked doors is often those run by people from cultures who celebrate other holidays, for whom today will just be another Monday.
Tomia Yeh, from San Mateo’s Little Sichuan Restaurant, said that they are typically busier on Christmas Day, and noted that it may be simply because they’re open when a lot of other family restaurants are not.
Representatives from the San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce said that Christmas is typically a busy day in Chinatown, where the locals give the Chinese New Year the type of attention that Christmas typically gets elsewhere.
“If you go to Chinatown during Christmas, you wouldn’t know it was Christmas,” Geduldig said.
But just because Santa Claus won’t be around doesn’t mean things won’t be festive.
Geduldig’s comedy show, at the New Asia Restaurant in Chinatown, is typically packed with people.
The event has grown in its 14 years. Today, it’s a four-day showcase that attracts people from around the world, whether they’re Jewish, Chinese, both, neither or just looking for some silliness and shrimp dishes.