It’s the Christmas season in Japan. Houses, shopping malls and streets are decorated with lights and sparkling ornamented Christmas trees. There’s gifts, Christmas music and families with kids are lined up filled with glee. A man with a suit, Christmas hat and white beard stands welcoming all the happy and excited people. If you’re thinking it’s Santa Claus then you’re wrong. The man is a statue of Colonel Sanders and the line is for the yearly Christmas KFC set that has been reserved weeks in advance and is one of the central traditions of celebrating Christmas in Japan.

As important as exchanging gifts, eating Christmas cake and listening to carols sung by Wham, it doesn’t feel like Japanese Christmas unless you’re eating a drumstick made with 11 secret herbs and spices from Kentucky Fried Chicken. The Christmas sets which includes a choice of the famous fried chicken or roast chicken, a variety of sides like salads, chicken tenders, Christmas cake and even a collectible designer Christmas plate as memorabilia. Depending on the amount of pieces and the different types of sets, a Christmas meal will cost between 3000 Yen ($30 US) to 6000 Yen ($60 US) for the Premium Chicken set.

The KFC tradition started in the 1970’s when KFC was having trouble competing as a fast food restaurant with McDonald’s Japan and came up with a marketing campaign linking Christmas to chicken. And as turkey is not widely available or eaten in Japan, foreigners who wanted to have turkey for Christmas had to settle with Kentucky Fried Chicken instead. Thus started the obsession with KFC and Christmas.

After KFC introduced the Christmas chicken set it became an instant tradition with people lining up for hours and pre-ordering as early as the beginning of November to ensure they could receive their set on their desired day (December 23-25). Chris, from the YouTube channel, Abroad in Japan, in his video decided to try the Premium Set of roast chicken as he was homesick and missing roast turkey. Watch him spend over 7000 Yen ($70 US) on his first Japanese Christmas Chicken Meal.

If you are in Japan and want to celebrate Christmas like the Japanese, check out KFC’s Special Christmas Menu and have a Happy Holidays from the Colonel, Japanese style. And don’t forget to check out Chris’s video for more information about Japan.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.