In spirit of our trip to Japan this year, our Christmas card is a spoof on the “Kentucky Christmas” in Japan.

KFC opened in Japan in the early 70s (if my sources are correct, KFC came to Japan before McDonald’s did). In 1974 they started the Kentucky For Christmas marketing campaign, and because of the success of this campaign, it has become a cultural phenomenon. Each year you can buy the Christmas set complete with a collector’s plate. Other stores have caught on to the popularity too and promote chicken dinners as well. Due to the influence of KFC, chicken dinners have become synonymous with Christmas. Talk about good marketing!

Christmas in Japan doesn’t have the weight and long history of meaningful family traditions like it does in the U.S. With less than 1% of population being Christian, Christmas is just another fun day. Families might typically have chicken dinner and a Christmas cake on Christmas Eve. If you’re a kid, maybe Santa-san will leave you a present by your pillow. But either way, it’s not a national holiday where everybody has work and school off, so there is no slow mornings of family breakfasts or preparing for family gatherings or church.

If you’re young and dating someone, I understand Christmas Eve is like Valentine’s Day. I do have first-hand experience with this. One year, we went out to dinner with Aya and her parent’s on Christmas Eve. Among the tables of young lovers having romantic dinners with stars in their eyes, there was me and Aya at a table of four, with her parents.

Visiting Aya’s family over the years, we’ve tried many different things. We’ve gone out for Italian, tried shabbu shabbu, we’ve stayed in and had sushi, we’ve had chicken dinners, and even the “Kentucky Christmas.” I think in the end, we’ve settled on sushi being our thing for Christmas while we are in Japan. I still secretly want to get KFC again though.

Merry Christmas to you and your family, I hope it’s “finger lickin’ good!”

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