Odd Traditions: Why KFC Is a Christmas Dinner of Choice in Japan

Apparently, KFC plays a big part of Christmas tradition in Japan — a huge part, in fact. We’re talking lines out the door, placing pre-orders, and making reservations to dine-in. According to the Huffington Post, the tradition has been going strong since 1974, when Kentucky Fried Chicken ran a “Christmas Chicken” campaign.

The campaign was inspired by the difficulty in finding turkey — the American staple for most holiday meals — in Japan. Ever since, KFC has made chicken dinner for Christmas a heralded tradition for many Japanese people. The popular fried chicken chain offers full Christmas dinners that include chicken, wine, cake, and champagne — all for $40.

James Cooper of WhyChristmas.com told Huffington Post that as lines wind out the door, it’s important to plan ahead. “To get your Christmas bucket, you have to make your reservation,” said Cooper. He added that the holiday does not have the same religious roots in Japan as it does for many Western cultures. He equated it to how Valentine’s Day is celebrated — a time for family, some romance, and a nice dinner.

According to a report by the Smithsonian, people will place their order for their bucket of Christmas chicken months in advance, and lines on Christmas can be as long as two hours, all for that savory yuletide taste of the Colonel’s secret recipe.