As Christmas meals go in the Anglophone world, poultry is pretty standard. If there’s no turkey on the table at dinner, it’s almost guaranteed that chicken, duck, pheasant, or a combination of all of the above will feature. And what’s even more certain is that these birds will be roasted and stuffed, not least because no other annual holiday is worth the effort of slaving in front of a hot oven for several hours preparing them like this.
Then there’s the Japanese way of doing things: fried. Roughly one percent of the Japanese population is actually Christian, so Christmas isn’t a national holiday in Japan, something which may give the Asian country a bit of leeway in how it celebrates the holiday – with a bucket of “Christmas Chicken”.
“Christmas Chicken” has become something of an annual tradition, largely because of a successful marketing campaign called ‘Kentucky for Christmas’ that occurred there in 1974. Because there is no turkey available in Japan, KFC company saw a prime commercial opportunity and launched its first Christmas meal that year: Chicken and wine for about $10. These days, a “Christmas chicken” meal costs almost $40.
Following the success of the first Christmas fried chicken campaign, KFC decided to associate phrase “Christmas” with “Kentucky”, using the simple slogan on TV “Christmas = Kentucky”. After the association caught on over the years (and they say advertising doesn’t work!), the tradition has become so popular that many Japanese people order their boxes of ”finger lickin’” Christmas chicken months in advance.
In fact, KFC in Japan reports its highest sales each year on Christmas Eve. So if you’re busy finishing your shopping in a hurried frenzy on December 24th, remember that across the world, a Japanese person is probably doing the exact same thing – in a KFC!