How Did KFC Turn Into Japan’s Unconventional Christmas Icon? Time For A Story!

Explore the unique story behind why families across Japan gather around buckets of fried chicken during the festive season.

by Mallika Khurana
How Did KFC Turn Into Japan’s Unconventional Christmas Icon? Time For A Story!

‘Tis the season for a tale that’ll make you rethink everything you know about Christmas traditions! Picture this: a world adorned in twinkling lights, each country wrapping its own unique ribbon around the holiday season. But nestled amidst these customs lies a story that’s as surprising as finding a present under the tree from a secret admirer. It’s a tale that transports us to Japan, where Christmas doesn’t just mean mistletoe and stockings; it’s the time when an iconic fast-food chain swoops in to claim its spot at the festive table. Buckle up for a journey into a holiday tradition that’s as crispy and delightful as a freshly fried drumstick!

Unwrapping Japan’s Delicious KFC Christmas Tradition

Christmas, especially, is a smorgasbord of customs, from decorating trees to leaving out cookies for Santa Claus. But Japan? Well, they’ve got a finger-lickin’ twist on this festive season! Picture this: Tokyo, bustling with vibrant lights and cheerful spirits. In Japan, Christmas isn’t traditionally a religious holiday but rather a romantic and festive occasion. Couples stroll beneath illuminations, families exchange gifts, and there’s a peculiar trend: a Christmas feast at… wait for it… KFC!

Now, you might raise an eyebrow at the idea of Kentucky Fried Chicken becoming synonymous with Christmas, but this tale is as intriguing as it gets. It all started in the 1970s, when a clever marketing campaign by KFC Japan took flight. The concept was simple yet brilliant: “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” which translates to “Kentucky for Christmas!” The campaign struck a chord with the Japanese public, thanks in part to the novelty of KFC being an American symbol and the scarcity of turkey in the country.

See, in Japan, turkey isn’t a common dish, and finding it back then was like searching for mistletoe in a desert. So, KFC swooped in and positioned its finger-lickin’ good chicken as the next best thing. Their Christmas bucket meals, adorned with Santa Claus and festive colours, became the go-to meal for many Japanese families during the holidays.

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From Santa’s Sleigh to KFC Trays

The tradition grew stronger with time. Pre-ordering KFC Christmas barrels became as common as hanging stockings. People lined up for hours to secure their crispy chicken feast. And KFC Japan rolled out special holiday menus, featuring unique items available only during this merry season.

Over the years, this marketing masterstroke cemented itself into Japanese culture so deeply that making a KFC reservation for Christmas became as crucial as booking flights for a vacation. What’s fascinating is how this tradition evolved into a cultural phenomenon, where KFC isn’t just a fast-food joint on December 25th; it’s an integral part of Japan’s Christmas celebrations. Families gather around buckets of fried chicken, sharing laughter and joy and making memories as unique as the tradition itself.

So, while some might find it odd that Colonel Sanders has a seat at the Christmas table in Japan, it’s a testament to the power of creative marketing, cultural adaptation, and the universal desire to celebrate the holiday spirit, even if it means swapping a roast turkey for a crispy drumstick!

Cover Image Courtesy: Canva and KFC Japan/Instagram

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