No stuffed turkey, no cannelloni, no suckling pig, no nougat. Fried chicken and Kentucky Fried Chicken. It is the typical food that for almost five decades has become a curious tradition on Christmas Day in the main cities of Japan, more specifically in all those where the fast food chain is present. As the week of December 25 approaches, the chain brings out the life-size statue of Colonel Sanders dressed as Santa Claus at the doors of all its establishments and announces its Christmas menu, which for 50 years has consisted of a large bucket of pieces of chicken, and to which salad and the typical Japanese cake have recently been added, all accompanied by a packaging Christmas exclusive. It is estimated that currently some 3.6 million families in Japan eat KFC for Christmas, and that is why it is common to order many weeks in advance. Some even talk about November, when the chain already begins to collect orders. But even so, the long lines that form in restaurants that day are not avoided.
Before the pandemic, KFC Japan raised 44 million euros from December 20 to 25
Chance is part of the explanation for this curious Japanese tradition of eating Kentucky fried chicken. It all goes back to one man: Takeshi Okawara, the manager of the first KFC in Japan, opened in Nagoya in November 1970. Apparently, he overheard a foreigner comment that he missed eating turkey at Christmas and that chicken was the next best option during the festive season. He also had not found anywhere to order the roast turkey that he used to have for dinner every year, so he ended up at the KFC in Okawara buying a bucket of chicken. Another person might not have given it more importance, but the manager of the KFC in Nagoya quickly saw a business opportunity and spoke to his superiors to present it.
A large bucket of chicken pieces, salad and the typical Japanese cake is the Christmas menu
The following year, the commercial management of the KFC chain, following Okawara’s idea, decided to launch a spectacular advertising campaign in Japan: Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii !, that is, “Kentucky for Christmas!” “The campaign was so successful that it permeated Japanese popular culture and, since then, many people have adopted this surprising tradition,” says writer Gema Sirvent, who has spent an entire year searching for information about new and old Christmas traditions for her unknown christmas (Takatuka).
In any case, Okawara’s company set the tone for Christmas in Japan for the next few decades, a practice that began to become popular well into the 1980s. According to the latest figures published by the American fast food chain, KFC Japan raised 6.9 billion yen (about 44 million euros) during the week of December 20 to 25, 2019, just before the pandemic, with long lines at the doors of their establishments from December 23. Specifically, the day with the highest sales is the 24th, when restaurants register between 5 and 10 times more than a normal day.
An estimated 3.6 million Japanese families eat the KFC special menu on Christmas Day
That of Japan is not the only curious tradition that has emerged over time. We also have China, which although it is not a country of Christian tradition and Christmas is not officially celebrated, the tradition of giving and exchanging apples on Christmas Eve has been imposed. Apparently this tradition began with a phonetic issue, a play on words in their language, since pingguo In Mandarin it means apple, and ping’an ye , Silent Night. Mixing both words she came to The night of the apple in peace, celebration that has also become very popular today.
Local fruit shops and markets strive during the days before Christmas to offer apples of all kinds. The apples are not sold as usual, but are wrapped in bright red wrapping or in small boxes with Christmas messages.