Kentucky Christmas: Japanese Tradition since 1974

Kentucky Christmas, Kentucky Christmas: Japanese Tradition since 1974, The Travel Bug Bite

Japan is not crazy about Christmas. Or at least it didn’t used to be. Westernization is bringing new holidays to all corners of the world. Bizarrely enough, the mention of winter holidays in Japan doesn’t make them think of Santa. It makes them think of Kentucky Christmas.

Kentucky Fried Christmas Chicken is popular all over the world! For most of us, it is considered a fast food treat when we’re on the go. For the Japanese, it has become a Christmas tradition. Sound strange? Think about the now iconic image of Santa Clause. His coat was not traditionally red and white. It was Coca Cola’s genius marketing that made Santa who he is today.

How did this madness start?

“From December 1974, KFC Japan began to promote fried chicken as a Christmas meal, with its long running “Kentucky for Christmas” (Japanese: クリスマスはケンタッキー) or “Kentucky Christmas” (Japanese: ケンタッキークリスマス) advertising campaign. Eating KFC food as a Christmas time meal has since become a widely practised custom in Japan.”


It is both fascinating and terrifying that we live in a world where a single marketing campaign can transform the way we celebrate a holiday. Today it is estimated that 3.6 million Japanese locals celebrate a Merry KFC Christmas.

As I’ve previously mentioned, Japan had never really cared much for Christmas. This is partially due to their religious background. The two major religions in Japan are Shinto and Buddhism. Many Asian countries, such as China, are seeing a rise in Christianity. According to Facts and Details, only 0.7% of the Japanese population identifies as Christian, while 4.7% identify as other.

Other Christmas Traditions

Winter in Japan is beautiful. Sometimes it will snow and cover all the beautiful temples. As Loralei Gilmore would say:

“Everything is magical when it snows. Everything looks pretty. The clothes are great; coats, scarves, gloves, hats.”

Gilmore Girls

So naturally, the people who don’t spend Christmas stuffing their faces with KFC treat it like Valentines Day! It is considered a romantic holiday that encourages couples to dine out at fancy restaurants. According to BBC, KFC sells as much as ten times more on a daily basis during December than any other month.

With the new vegan KFC special in Canada, I might just add this to my Christmas celebrations. Cause who wouldn’t want vegan chicken popcorn under their Christmas tree?

Kentucky Christmas, Kentucky Christmas: Japanese Tradition since 1974, The Travel Bug Bite
Kentucky Christmas – Japanese Tradition: Photo from Business Insider

Follow The Travel Bug Bite for more Christmas traditions from all over the world!

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