It’s always a very merry Kentucky Christmas in Japan. Every year, millions of families make a beeline for the nearest KFC in Japan and order bucketloads of fried chicken. Children reach in for the best piece of the lot, commemorating what they know to be the most natural tradition–a KFC dinner for Christmas.
All they want for Christmas is…
In Japan, Christmas has always been a secular celebration. Most schools close by 25 December, but more to mark the close of the year than to acknowledge the coming of Santa. There are little ways in which the country does come alive around this time though–Japan’s world famous illuminations take on a shade of white for the winter, Christmas trees stand decked up in glitz, and families are seen enjoying buckets of KFC.
There was a time though, when none of this was around, and Christmas was a bland affair no one cared about. This was back in the post-war 50s, when the influence of the West was just sowing its seeds in the country and popular traditions and fast food chains had not yet made their way into people’s homes.
Skip to 1970—Takeshi Okawara opened the first KFC outlet in Nagoya, Japan. The event was part of the phenomenal globalisation that had been taking place since the past two decades. In its fourth year of operations, the restaurant launched its Kentucky for Christmas campaign, which soon made waves in a country that had no inkling of Christmas traditions as yet. ‘Party Barrels’ of chicken were soon rolled out, backed by street hoardings that featured a family savouring buckets of golden chicken with a sense of celebration. Advertisements around these Christmas buckets were complemented by the song, My Old Kentucky Home, though it never struck to the common man that it was probably not a Christmas carol. Who can you blame, really?