Seasons greeting my dear reader. When one thinks of what to serve for Christmas, it’s usually turkey, ham, or a roast, but did you know they do it differently in Japan? Well, for the Japanese, it has become a tradition get a bucket of the Colonel Sanders’ Kentucky fried chicken. Yes, dear reader, they for that finger lickin’ good KFC. How this celebration and fried chicken intertwined to become a local tradition, well, let’s find out.
On Christmas day, Japanese families gather around the dining table to a bucket of fried chicken- which is not something that would be considered the norm to those who celebrate the occasion, since Christmas is generally fast food-free.
For the Japanese however, orders of deep-fired chicken come in as early as November, even then many still need to wait in massive queues that form outside KFCs across the country on Christmas day to pick it up.
The story goes that in the late 1960s, the Japanese began celebrating Christmas as a season event, hosting parties at home as confectionary companies started promoting cakes and sweets for kids. Initially, these celebrations were for entertaining kids.
Then, by the 1970s, KFC came to Japan, and in 1974, KFC launched their first Christmas ad campaign, selling a bucket of KFC’s famous fried chicken along with a bottle of wine. Suggesting it be used for a Christmas party that wasn’t just for kids, but for grownups too. The ad campaign’s slogan was ケンタッキーはクリスマス！which translate to “Kentucky is Christmas!”
Since the original launch back in 1974, KFC’s Christmas campaign has continued to evolve over the years, one such example is a Colonel Saunders statue dressed in Santa attire outside of restaurants. Other examples are Christmas-themed menu items, like a premium roast chicken which is then stuffed with cheese and mushrooms, and made to order.
Christmas is a very lucrative time for KFC, making a third of their annual sales. A standard party box that contains eight pieces of chicken, a lasagna, and a chocolate cake (yes, KFC Japan offers cakes) which will set you back about ¥4,000 (RM132 or $30usd) if you booked in advance- that’s a lot for fried chicken!
While this tradition is very novel to many, but it certainly has become a corner stone of Christmas celebration for the Japanese. Maybe its party due to Colonel Sanders’s striking resemblance to Santa Claus, especially when given a Christmas makeover. Or the KFC Christmas meal is imitating the classic Christmas turkey dinner. Regardless, this tradition is here to stay