For those who celebrate Christmas, you’ll know food plays a big role in the festive season. It’s juicy meats, crunchy roast potatoes, veggies, biscuits, yams and lashings of gravy. In Australia, if it’s too hot to cook inside, we might fire up the weber instead. But here in Japan, it’s always KFC for Christmas.
Wait, Japanese Celebrate Christmas?
Well, yes! Roughly 1% of Japanese are Christian, but the rest of the country gets pretty into the yuletide spirit, too. Here, December is a time for strolling, bathed in the glow of the night illuminations. It’s a time for sipping mulled wine at one of the many German Christmas markets. December 25th may be a regular day of school and business for everyone, but it sure looks and sounds like Christmas. Carols play seemingly everywhere, shops spruik the best Christmas gifts and wreaths decorate the doors of houses. But there’s one tradition going strong since the ‘70s that never fails to surprise a visitor.
KFC for Christmas in Japan?
That’s right, Christmas in Japan is finger lickin’ good. Rumour has it that in the 1970s, a KFC employee heard foreign expats bemoaning the lack of turkey here over Christmas. They decided that chicken would make an adequate substitute. Precisely, the deep fried, 11 secret herbs and spices variety of chicken. The marketing team whipped up a campaign advertising scenes of families enjoying fried chicken for Christmas dinner and a new tradition was born. It is now so ingrained that eating KFC for Christmas is just a given.
The menu features all the regular fare as well as whole cakes, champagne and plump rotisserie chooks (kind of hard to come by here). For the three days leading up to Christmas, walk past any KFC and you’ll catch a queue of cold and hungry people waiting patiently for their festive protein.
I heard I have to reserve my KFC…
Not necessarily. If you’re just after a few drumsticks and sides, you can definitely join the queue and wait. But if you’re feeding a group or looking for a whole chicken, it’s best to get your order in early. Demand is high and supplies are limited. Luckily, reservations open up months in advance online, so you have plenty of time to plan the perfect gathering.
We thought we’d give it a go this year and got in line at the local KFC. There were maybe fifteen or twenty ahead of us. Staff periodically came out with laminated picture menus to speed up the decision making process and were checking for reservations. Those with reservations would be plucked from the queue while others would simply wander over, waving their ticket, and be whisked inside to collect their bags.
Inside, the dining area had been blockaded and completely taken over by the packing and sorting of orders; it was a strictly take-away only situation.
We ordered and got our food within minutes. Along with our chicken came some reheat instructions—the fifteen minute journey home in the cool winter air would not spoil our meal, no sir. Once back, a bit of Google Translate and voila—hot, fresh, festive chicken.
‘Odd’ though it may be, it’s certainly nice to have access to festivity and cultural traditions when in foreign lands far from your own. Even if it comes in a bucket.
Post by Japan Journeys.