Marco Polo’s 24 Holiday traditions from around the world – Day 18: Japan Christmas KFC

Marco Polo Japan Pocket Guide

Marco Polo Japan Pocket Guide coming out in January 2018!

It’s Day 18 of our Advent Calendar and the countdown to Christmas has really begun. Today we are headed to a brand-new Marco Polo guide destination… Japan! We are launching our brand-new updated Pocket Guide series in January, with a sleek new design and a bunch of new destinations… but for now we will find out why all of Japan is going crazy for fried chicken on Christmas day. Did you miss yesterday’s post? Check it out here!


Christmas isn’t traditionally celebrated in Japan, and those that do, tend to treat it more as a romantic holiday, treating their partners to romantic getaways and dinners as one would on Valentine’s Day. However, there is also a rough estimate of 3.6 million Japanese people who celebrate Christmas with their families and loved ones by getting a bucket or two of KFC, Kentucky Fried Chicken.

December is the busiest month of the year for the KFC in Japan, and you have to order the special KFC Christmas dinner weeks early or you will find yourself waiting in line for hours.

The tradition is almost fifty years old already. The first KFC restaurants arrived in Japan in the 1970s, and in 1974 the company ran a national marketing campaign Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii, Kentucky for Christmas. The Christmas party bucket was an immediate success, possibly because Japan did not have any other Christmas traditions at the time, so people were eager to fill the void. The company also branded their own smiling Colonel Sanders as sort of Santa Claus figure with the traditional Santa outfit and similar jolly white-bearded appearance.

So if you are travelling in Japan during Christmas, don’t be surprised to see long lines outside the KFC. And though we are not likely to pick up the tradition here at Marco Polo, the idea of no Christmas cooking but having a good time with family and friends does sound pretty appealing.


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