How Did It Start?
The tradition started when an expat buying fried chicken at a KFC location in the neighborhood of Aoyama mentioned that, since there was no turkey in Japan, chicken was the next big thing. The store manager then proceeded to tell higher-ups about their findings. As a result, KFC launched its クリスマスにはケンタッキー (Kentucky for Christmas) campaign in 1974, which became an instant hit that has not lost any steam throughout the years.
By 1985, Kentucky had launched its Christmas Party Barrel, which includes eight pieces of chicken, a dessert (tiramisu for the 2019 set), a side dish, and a commemorative plate for a 4,100 yen.
This can be very expensive when compared to what Kentucky Fried Chicken offers in the United States, but in Japan KFC has a different kind of pedigree. This is one of the reasons foreigners are shocked when finding out how Japan associates KFC with Christmas. After all, in many other countries, Christmas is a holiday where people prepare spectacular dishes for Christmas dinners and lunches (depending on how each family celebrates, since there are families that will have dinner on Christmas Eve with one side of the family, and Christmas lunch with the other); and then you have Japanese people getting Kentucky Fried Chicken to celebrate an adopted holiday that has no true meaning for them. It’s a very fun example of how Western festivities can take a whole different shape in the Land of the Rising Sun.
The bizarre and incredibly popular custom has become so intense that people tend to pre-order their Party Barrels in advance so as to avoid the crowds or being left without KFC for Christmas.
Japanese people never fail to create unique customs, and this campaign is exactly one of them. If you happen to be in Japan during Christmas and would like to partake in this festivity, go line up at a KFC and get your Party Barrel. If you have Japanese friends in town, then make the day even better by celebrating with them, KFC style.
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