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There’s a pretty decent chance that if you’re Japanese, you’re about to head off to pick up your (possibly reserved) Christmas Chicken from KFC… you know, because that’s how the rest of the world celebrates Christmas. Who knew The Colonel’s secret recipe was so… tricky!

In Japan, You Eat Chicken On Christmas

Ask almost any Japanese person (and I have asked many) why they eat KFC on Christmas. Almost every one of them will answer “isn’t that what you do?” (or, at the very least, they’ll ask “you don’t eat chicken, too?”). Apparently, over the years the colonel has been tricking Japanese people into thinking that the rest of the world does Christmas with KFC, so obviously the cool thing to do is follow suit.

Of course (unless I’m missing something here) a KFC Christmas almost anywhere else would be quite a sad affair. Even eating chicken on Christmas seems a bit weird to me, though I’m sure there are some who roast a chicken instead of a goose, or turkey, or ham, or whatever it is people normally make.

How Did This Happen?

Well, first of all, the meaning of Christmas is pretty lost in Japan. It’s almost entirely a commercial holiday (did I say almost? I meant completely). We have made up 100% commercial holidays too, though I gotta say, Japan knocks us out of the water in this category. Christmas in Japan essentially feels like a “how much can you spend on your girlfriend today?” kind of holiday. There’s a lot of pressure to buy expensive gifts (even rankings on TV showing what gifts are the best, with a very heavy focus on price), spend money on hotels, and really just spend a lot of money in between, too.

With all this focus on the commercial, it was probably super easy for KFC to slip in and take the show. All it took, I’m sure, was a few years of advertising campaigns around Christmas. I mean, c’mon, who can possibly resist Japanese commercials? I know I can’t.

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJAyVZ8HiwE']

Oh, and did I mention that Colonel Sanders kind of looks like Santa? He totally does.

Other Weird Japanese Christmas “Traditions”

KFC isn’t the only thing that makes Christmas in Japan unique. There are plenty of other things that could be considered “weird,” and we wrote about a good number of them a couple of years ago right here on Tofugu. But, just to make things simple, here’s a list of weird things, along with a few new ones.

  • Along with their chicken, a lot of people eat “Christmas Cake,” also because “Americans do it.” Maybe it’s just me, but I’m pretty sure people don’t eat Christmas Cake (though I guess it makes sense, after all, we are supposedly celebrating a birthday, right?).
  • A lot of Japanese people get it right (and know that Christmas is to celebrate Jesus’ birthday)… but there are a good number of people who think it’s to celebrate Santa’s birthday too. I’d give it a 60% Jesus, 20% don’t know, and 20% Santa’s birthday ratio, from the asking I’ve done.
  • Christmas Eve is lovey-lovey date night. It’s kind of like Valentines in a way. Guys are supposed to spend uber amounts of money on girls, and possibly rent a hotel, because that’s what guys do. Expect to see lots of TV focusing on expensive things to buy and expensive hotel rooms to rent around this time.
  • Christmas Eve is a night of miracles. Thank TV for this. Usually these miracles are romance related, though.
  • Although this has changed much, and the “age at which women should get married” has also become less “strict,” unmarried girls who are older than 25 (because the 25th is Christmas) are called “Christmas Cakes,” because in order to sell a Christmas Cake after Christmas, they have to be put at big discounts (i.e., you’re supposed to get married before hitting 25). Like I said, this is and has changed quite a bit.

Merry Christmas From Tofugu, Too!

Oh, and Merry Christmas to everyone out there, too! Hope you have a great holiday, no matter what you celebrate (or don’t celebrate). Festivus for the Restivus?

Merry Christmas! Go do something nice for someone.

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  • Guest

    Great article, but I’m Japanese, and my family (nor any of our friends) have ever had KFC for Christmas. I’m sure some Japanese families do, but it’s definitely not a “tradition” like your article implies. ;)

  • Guest

    I meant, my family has NEVER had KFC for Christmas. Typo sorry!

  • Kurone Shizuhi

    I’ve been in the exact situation where my Japanese friend asked me, “isn’t that what you do for christmas?”.

  • Jirugi

    “Apparently, over the years the colonel has been tricking Japanese
    people into thinking that the rest of the world does Christmas with KFC”
    lololol

    Anywho, is there a such thing as a traditional Christmas meal? I think this really varies depending on the household (in America).
    KFC on Christmas doesn’t sound too bad :)

  • Nay Wangtal

    Wouldn’t a real traditional Christmas meal be something like…bread? Maybe mash potato, or assorted starch, or even no food at all?
    Personally, I do wine and cheese.

  • Mahayla

    there was no video

  • Kelsey Reed

    Why do they eat KFC??

  • DZB1977

    We get the same questions in Korea. My girlfriend was asked today by her boss if she had hamburgers and pizza for christmas dinner.

    I think I might go get a bucket of chicken for dinner tonight.

  • Iz

    Santa Claus or rather St. Nicholas was apparently a real person too :)