December 24, 2008

Kentucky Fried Christmas Eve

Bet you didn’t know that Kentucky Fried Chicken is a very popular choice for Christmas Eve dinner in Japan.

"Why not give it a try?" I thought, in my continuing quest to explore the interesting cultural twists of my host country. I discovered that the information found on other blogs is true: unless you reserve your Christmas KFC far in advance, you can’t buy it for dinner on December 24 or on Christmas Day. The outlets are just too busy!When I checked this out a local KFC outlet about a week ago, the reservation sheet was completely filled in for a week prior to, and after, Christmas Eve. Lady E. likes chicken, and I am still very curious about the ways Japanese people modify foreign products or traditions to meet local needs, but this rush just to eat yucky tucky is pushing the envelope for me. So we’ll settle for a home cooked meal on Christmas Eve instead.

Background: From what I’ve learned, KFC began operations in Japan in 1970. A life size replica of Colonel Sanders is placed in front of almost all KFC outlets in Japan (see below). But why is KFC so popular on Christmas Eve?

Apparently, the lack of turkey in Japan, and the general lack of ovens big enough to cook the birds in peoples' homes even if they could be purchased, forced a switch to chicken as an alternative. Savvy marketers caught on to these market factors, and since the 1970s Christmas chicken has been intensively marketed as an American-style yuletide dinner.

Just as the same Christmas Eve has become a highly significant date night for young Japanese people on a par with Valentine’s Day (as opposed to spending it with family, which is what new year’s eve is for) the cultural significance of food and fun on Christmas Eve and Christmas itself is markedly different than in North America.

Maybe I’ll try easing sushi and ramen on Christmas Eve when we eventually live somewhere else besides Japan. Nonetheless, a very Merry Christmas from Lady E. and her crew, to you.

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