With less than a week until Christmas, people in Japan are stressing about how much they still have to do to prepare for the holiday. Unlike countries where the Christmas season is all about gift giving, and maybe some Christianity, less than 1% of Japan’s population pays any attention to the religious connotations of December 25. What they do focus on is the delicious food awaiting them. Here in England, we’re also geared up for the tasty treats that are prepared at this time of the year, such as Christmas pudding, the chocolate Yule Log, and Mince pies. Plus, there’s the turkey and all the trimmings. But wait. What about countries like Japan where you can’t get turkey? Simple, grab yourself some Kentucky.
Few things in history are as neatly laid out as the situation that paired together Kentucky Fried Chicken and Christmas in Japan. Back in 1973, a group of foreign visitors were spending the holiday in Japan. Try as they might, they learned that there is no way to buy a turkey in Japan, so they settled on the closest alternative: chicken. Word of this situation quickly got around to the corporate executives at Kentucky Fried Chicken, who were still trying to figure out how to present the newly-arrived company to the Japanese market. The following year, KFC launched the Christmas Chicken Campaign, consisting of the slogan “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!,” which translates into Kentucky for Christmas!
Over the last forty years, subsequent campaigns have reinforced the message that Christmas and KFC go hand-in-hand, and the Japanese have responded in an overwhelming fashion. It is now an essential tradition that you have fried chicken as part of your Christmas Eve celebrations. People order their buckets of chicken and the rest of the dinner package, which includes champagne and cake, months in advance. If for whatever reason someone forgets, they’re going to be waiting in line for over two hours on Christmas Eve before they’re able to place an order. The situation is so crazy that specially-trained cashiers and customer service representatives are flown to Japan two weeks before Christmas to help deal with the onslaught of hungry customers. To put the onslaught in perspective, KFC in Japan sells twice as much food on December 23, December 24, and December 25 as it does the other 362 days of the year combined. Japan Airlines (JAL) even reached an agreement with KFC a few years ago to serve a special fried chicken meal on select flights during the holiday season. Check out the KFC Christmas website for more details on this weird holiday tradition.