By Deb Baker
I meet my husband’s side of the family in the early eighties. Several months later I was seated at a long table in a tiny restaurant filled with Bakers. We were the only customers. Downtown Milwaukee. An old office building that has since been torn down for condos. The Restaurant? Hoi Ping. The time? Christmas Eve.
I thought my future in-laws were SO weird. But the tradition of eating Chinese on Christmas Eve has been in their family since way back, long before Ralphie’s family popularized it in A Christmas Story.
It all started with Oscar Baker, his orchestra (I hear Oscar gave Woody Herman his first job), and the performance he conducted every Christmas Eve. After the show, all the Bakers would meet him downtown and dine at the only restaurant open on that night – a Chinese restaurant.
Well, the tradition has survived and Oscar would be proud. For many years we were the only ones crazy enough not to stay home and cook. Now try walking into a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Eve and getting a table without reservations. They are packed with people and odds are your wait will be long.
The Bakers are spread out across the country now, but I know where every single one of them will be tonight. My grown kids can hardly wait. I love traditions no matter how unusual they are. Wherever you are, have a wonderful holiday.