KFC Is A Traditional Christmas Meal?

KFC Christmas meal in Japan
Photo by Robert Sanzalone.

What do you eat on Christmas day?

If you’re American, the answer is most likely turkey.

If you’re German, it’s goose.

And if you’re Japanese, it’s a bucket of the colonel’s finest.

Seriously.

KFC offers special Christmas buckets. They sell for a hundred dollars and you have to order a month or two in advance to ensure you actually get one. They’re than popular.

On Christmas day, a line forms outside every KFC. People wait for their pre-ordered buckets so they can take them home and enjoy a traditional Christmas feast with their family.

How did this happen? How did a bucket of greasy chicken become the Christmas meal of a whole country?

Japan is famous for being a bit quirky, but this Christmas tradition ranks as one of the strangest things I saw in the country. Since it was weird even for Japan, I naturally had to learn more.

It turns out it’s the result of some brilliant marketing.

The Japanese didn’t celebrate Christmas traditionally, but Western things were popular, so Christmas caught on. Stores saw the profit potential and promoted the holiday. But there were no established traditions, like the Christmas meal.

In Japan, there are no turkeys or geese or any other large bird that could be used as a substitute. KFC saw the opportunity. They created the Christmas bucket and an advertising campaign to go along with it. And it worked. Chicken became the Japanese turkey. People started buying these Christmas buckets and today they pay far more than they’re actually worth.

This was brilliant marketing by KFC and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that a significant portion of their annual earning in Japan come during the holidays. And the Japanese people are happy to have their own Christmas tradition and don;t seem to mind paying way too much and waiting way too long for average chicken. You have to applaud the ingenuity, I suppose. But I still could never get myself to actually get one of the Christmas buckets. I’d rather just have some sushi.

To learn more read this article in the Smithsonian Magazine.