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Japan's Kentucky Fried Chicken Christmas Dinner Tradition - A Phenomenon The World Does Not Understand

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December 1, 2017 / American / By
Adrian Cruce

 

While in most parts of the world the Christmas dinner is filled with homemade treats, Japan celebrates with Kentucky Fried Chicken, a very Merry KFC Christmas. In fact, close to 3.6 million families in the country eat KFC instead of what the rest of the world considers a traditional Christmas dinner.

December became a huge month for the American fast-food chain in Japan. Sales increase ten times the usual take while the special KFC special Christmas dinner needs to be ordered weeks in advance. Families that do not order in advance have to wait hours in line to get it.

How Did “Kentucky For Christmas” Start

Motoichi Nakatani, KFC Japan spokeswoman, said that the tradition started thanks to an idea by Takeshi Okawara in 1970. At that time he was the first KFC restaurant manager in Japan. He came up with the Party Barrel and intended to market it for foreigners that missed eating turkey during Christmas. In the year 1974 KFC made this campaign national with the name “Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii’ (Kentucky for Christmas). The results were totally unexpected. Party Barrel became a national phenomenon and eventually evolved to various party boxes ranging from a simple box filled with chicken to a box including a whole roasted chicken, sides and wine. These packages are so popular that they actually make up around one third of all the yearly sales KFC has in Japan.

A Story Only For Japan

KFC Merry Christmas Party Barrel is something you will only find in Japan. Those in other countries would think it is weird but in Japan it became a huge family tradition. Party Barrels would not work in USA or anywhere else because the simple idea of having fast food for Christmas dinner is seen as being rude. This is not just about KFC.

In Japan just one percent of the population is Christian. Christmas is not even an official holiday. Because of this families will not spend hours or days thinking about the dinner. Since KFC’s marketing was really well-done, people started to associate the KFC dinners with a new holiday, Christmas. The Party Barrel is basically an excuse to show up and have a family reunion.

Basically, globalization is at play here. Consumer rituals from other countries spread to Japan and were translated. Instead of Christmas trees and traditional Christmas dinners, KFC’s Party Barrels became the tradition.

If you plan to travel to Japan this Christmas do not be surprised to see Colonel Sanders dressed as Santa Claus and KFC restaurants being filled with people staying in line, arranging orders for a Merry KFC Christmas. It might be the very first time you celebrate Christmas with fast food or KFC if you spend the night with locals. 


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