June 14, 2024

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Forget Turkey, Get Gravy: Why KFC is King of Christmas in Japan

2 min read
Forget turkey! Dive into the finger-lickin' world of KFC Christmas in Japan. Discover how this Colonel-led trend took flight, why it's become a beloved tradition, and how you can celebrate a truly unique holiday feast.
KFC is King of Christmas in Japan

Forget Turkey, Get Gravy: Why KFC is King of Christmas in Japan

Forget the yuletide ham and roasting chestnuts – in Japan, Christmas comes with a bucket of fried chicken. While most Westerners picture a turkey centerpiece on their holiday table, the Land of the Rising Sun has embraced a decidedly different tradition: KFC for Christmas. But how did this finger-lickin’ phenomenon come to be, and why does it hold such a firm grip on Japanese hearts (and stomachs)?

A Colonel for All Seasons:

The journey begins in the 1970s, a time when Westernization was sweeping Japan. Christmas, initially a niche festivity, started gaining traction thanks to marketing campaigns and American films showcasing cozy Christmas dinners. However, traditional Japanese cuisine lacked a centerpiece comparable to the Western turkey. Enter Colonel Sanders, riding a wave of KFC’s booming popularity in the country.

Kernel of an Idea:

In 1974, a KFC manager in Fukuoka launched a Christmas campaign, cleverly targeting young couples seeking a romantic alternative to the traditional New Year’s celebrations. The campaign, featuring a festive “Party Barrel” filled with fried chicken, resonated with a generation searching for new ways to celebrate. The campaign’s success snowballed, with KFC’s Colonel becoming a ubiquitous Christmas figure in Japan.

Beyond the Bucket:

It’s not just about the convenience or deliciousness of fried chicken. KFC’s Christmas marketing cleverly tapped into Japanese cultural elements. Limited-edition Christmas menus, featuring festive sides and desserts, added a touch of novelty. Advertising campaigns incorporated heartwarming family moments around a bucket of KFC, making it a symbol of togetherness and joy.

A Tradition Takes Flight:

Over the years, KFC’s Christmas marketing has only grown more sophisticated. Colonel Sanders became a Christmas icon, appearing in festive decorations, merchandise, and even Christmas carols! Today, reserving a KFC Christmas feast has become a national ritual, with lines snaking around restaurants weeks in advance.

More Than Just Chicken:

For many Japanese, KFC at Christmas has transcended its culinary origins. It’s a cultural touchstone, a reminder of family gatherings, and a symbol of the unique way Japan has adopted and adapted Christmas traditions. It’s a testament to the power of clever marketing, delicious food, and a little bit of Colonel Sanders magic.

So, this Christmas, if you find yourself yearning for something a little different, embrace the unexpected. Skip the turkey, grab a bucket of fried chicken, and raise a toast to the Colonel – the unlikely king of Christmas in Japan.


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