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What’s the deal with Japan and “Christmas Chicken?”

Japan can't get enough of KFC on Christmas Day

By 1 min read 5

I’m not sure what I was expecting my first Christmas in Tokyo, but having my husband hunt down the perfect “Christmas Chicken” and standing in line for three hours at KFC for said bucket of “Christmas Chicken” was not top on my list.

If you think about it, Japan is really good at taking foreign things and giving them a little twist. On Valentine’s Day, women give men chocolate. On Halloween, youth gather in Shibuya and walk around in costume. On Christmas, you eat chicken.



There was a particularly successful campaign back in 1974 that cemented KFC’s “Christmas Chicken” deal. Growing up, my husband always fantasized about spending a romantic Christmas with a lover and a platter of chicken.

The fact that I was American only increased his desire to have what he thought was an “iconic, American Christmas.” You can imagine his surprise when he learned that Americans don’t usually sit down with a bucket of KFC chicken on Christmas. He was just a little bit heartbroken.

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  • maulinator says:

    According to wiki:

    Most Christmas customs in the United States have been adopted from those in the United Kingdom (though others have come from Italy, France, Scandinavia, and Germany.) [15] Accordingly, the mainstays of the British table are also found in the United States: roast turkey (or other poultry), beef, ham, or pork; stuffing (or ‘dressing’), mashed potatoes and gravy, squash, roasted root vegetables are common. Common desserts include pumpkin pie, plum pudding or Christmas pudding and mince pies. In the South, coconut cake, pecan pie, and sweet potato pie are also common.

    The centerpiece of a sit-down meal varies on the tastes of the host but can be ham, roast beef, or goose, particularly since turkey is the mainstay at dinner for the American holiday of Thanksgiving in November, around one month earlier. Regional meals offer diversity. Virginia has oysters, ham pie, and fluffy biscuits, a nod to its very English 17th century founders. The Upper Midwest includes dishes from predominantly Scandinavian backgrounds such as lutefisk and mashed rutabaga or turnip.[16] In some rural areas, game meats like elk, opossum or quail may grace the table, often prepared with recipes that are extremely old: it is likely that similar foodstuffs graced the tables of early American settlers on their first Christmases.
    So chicken as an interpretation is not far off. For my family it was always goose. A very traditional colonial American meal. Goose with wld rice pilaf.
    What is surprising is that Nippon Ham did not jump on the traditional roast ham as alternative to KFC…..

    An Italian American meal for Christmas Eve can be the Feast of the Seven Fishes.

  • Jen says:

    Aw that was nice of him to at least try to give you an “American” Christmas though lol

  • Sik says:

    The explanation I had heard before is that because Japan doesn’t have turkeys KFC took advantage of it to impose the tradition with chicken instead… so this is actually a delayed thanksgiving when looked like that (while hogging the whole holiday to themselves while we’re at it :P).

  • Fumiko Motozawa-Giordano says:


  • Nelly says:

    Interesting, my husband is Japanese, but hm, does not seem he is big on the whole Christmas deal (I’m white gaijin, and I am not big on Christmas either so it’s actually a good thing to me 😀 I prefer New Year’s celebration in winter).
    It is always interesting to know about other people interpretation of the “western life”, thank you for sharing 🙂



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