KFC: Japan's Groovy Christmas Tradition That Started In 1974

Culture | December 4, 2019

It's beginning to look a lot like Kurisumasu. Source: kfc.co.jp

Every year millions of Japanese families flood their local KFC locations to take part in the annual tradition of Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii: Kentucky for Christmas. In a country known for their obsession over pop culture this may sound like a fad, but this Christmas tradition has been bringing friends and family together every December 25 since the fast food company created the Kentucky Fried Christmas concept in 1974. Japan isn’t really a “Christmassy” place, but after the Colonel introduced the idea of a family gathering around a bucket of original recipe this island of cultural connoisseurs found the Christmas spirit. 

A Lot Of People Celebrate The Colonel’s Christmas

source: pinterest

This isn’t just some niche Christmas celebration that a few chicken crazy weirdoes are into, an estimated 3.6 million Japanese families gather around a bucket of FKC and chow down to celebrate the holiday season. Come December every year KFC locations across Japan get gussied up in red and green in anticipation of the Christmas rush. It’s not just the stores that get a makeover during the holiday season, it’s the Colonel too. He’s dressed up like Santa, complete with the hat and robe, and treated like an absolute prince. 

You Have To Order In Advance If You Want To Celebrate

source: business insider

Having a Kentucky Fried Christmas isn’t as easy as waking up in Tokyo and walking down to your closest combination Pizza Hut/Taco Bell/KFC. The restaurant chain is incredibly busy throughout the bustling holiday season and orders for Christmas Day have to be made at least a month in advance if not earlier in order to have enough food ready for your entire family, but that doesn’t stop people from showing up on the day to stand in line for hours to get some KFC. On Christmas Day the business explodes and locations can sell up to 10 times their usual amount. 

KFC For Christmas Fills A Void

source: reddit

Japanese people didn’t just start mobbing KFC on Christmas for no reason, the Colonel’s holiday is actually the product of great marketing. The idea for the KFC holiday came from Takeshi Okawara, the manager of the first KFC in the country, after he overheard western expats talk about how they missed having turkey for Christmas. Supposedly he woke up in the middle of the night and wrote down the note “party barrel” as a product to sell in lieu of turkey.

Great marketing is one thing, but KFC Christmas is more than just selling fried chicken to people when they’re hungry for a classic Christmas dinner, it’s filling the void that exists in Japan created by the lack of Christmas tradition. The party barrel brings people together whether they’re friends or family, which is exactly what Christmas is all about.

Kurisumasu Ni Wa Kentakkii Has Been Happening Since 1974

source: twitter

After Takeshi Okawara tried out his holiday plan at his local location the while thing went national in 1974. His plan worked like gangbusters and soon enough KFC Christmas was bringing friends and families together all over the country. Okawara’s plan made the company so happy that he stopped working as a branch manager and moved up the corporate ladder until he was president and CEO of Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan. He held onto that position from 1984 to 2002 until he finally vacated the position. Wouldn’t you put the guy who invented Christmas in charge of your company? 

Christmas Isn’t Just About Chicken

source: business insider

The Japanese people aren’t just chicken crazy on Christmas Day, the celebration is just as culinarily nuanced as it is in the west, it’s just a little different. The buckets of chicken come along with cake, a dish that’s been an important part of holiday celebrations in Japan for longer than KFC’s been around. Some party barrels come with ribs, and you can even pick up a bottle of KFC wine if you really want to make it a special celebration. As all over the place as this KFC Christmas sounds, it just proves that Christmas doesn’t have anything to do with gifts or decorations; it’s all about getting together with your friends and family.

Tags: Christmas | Japan | Kentucky Fried Chicken | KFC

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Jacob Shelton


Jacob Shelton is a Los Angeles based writer. For some reason this was the most difficult thing he’s written all day, and here’s the kicker – his girlfriend wrote the funny part of that last sentence. As for the rest of the bio? That’s pure Jacob, baby. He’s obsessed with the ways in which singular, transgressive acts have shaped the broader strokes of history, and he believes in alternate dimensions, which means that he’s great at a dinner party. When he’s not writing about culture, pop or otherwise, he’s adding to his found photograph collection and eavesdropping on strangers in public.