3.6 million Japanese families celebrate the festive season with the Colonel's chicken

Forget turkey and stuffing – Japanese Christmas traditions now involve a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Whatsmore, finger condoms have been introduced in 222 of the fast food franchises.

Unlike in western countries, Christmas day isn’t a national holiday. This could largely be due to fact that Christians in Japan comprise of less than 1% of the entire population.

Consequently, Christmas is treated much like a romantic holiday such as Valentine’s Day. However, whilst couples spoil each other and dine at fancy restaurants, other Japanese families tuck into buckets of fried Chicken.

It is estimated that each year 3.6 million Japanese families celebrate the festive season with KFC.

Some KFC restaurants report their Christmas period seeing over 10 times more sales than their usual intake. As a result, guaranteeing your Christmas buckets requires ordering weeks in advance.

“My kids, they think it’s natural,” says Ryohei Ando, a 40-year-old in the marketing department of a Tokyo sporting goods company.

KFC – Kentucky For Christmas

KFC Japan spokeswoman Motoichi Nakatani said the tradition began in 1970, thanks to the first KFC’s manager Takeshi Okawara. Shortly after the first store was opened, Okawara dreamt up the idea of a ‘party barrel’ that would be sold on Christmas.

Hoping fried chicken would be an easier substitute for turkey, he began marketing his party barrel, using the marketing slogan ‘Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii’ – Kentucky for Christmas.

“It filled a void,” says Joonas Rokka, associate professor of marketing at Emlyon Business School in France, “There was no tradition of Christmas in Japan, and so KFC came in and said, this is what you should do on Christmas.”

“It’s kind of a symbol of family reunion,” Ando says. “It’s not about the chicken. It’s about getting the family together, and then there just happens to be chicken as part of it.”

by Robert Sanzalone

KFC finger condoms

This year, the Colonel’s chicken is no longer finger-licking-good in Japan. To prevent their customers’ fingers from getting greasy this Christmas, KFC Japan is gifting their diners with two-fingered transparent gloves to cover their thumb and forefinger.

The fingernaps, AKA finger napkins, AKA chicken-finger gloves, AKA finger condoms are being rolled out to 222 stores in Japan this month. In a press release, KFC revealed that the initiative was inspired by customer feedback, adding “the most delicious way to eat chicken is with your hands.”

KFC patrons have since posted pictures of their finger-condom experience.