Japan does Christmas a little differently than the rest of the world.
If there’s one thing that’s common between every country it’s that no two countries celebrate Christmas quite the same way. Take Japan, a country half a world away where things are just a little bit different than here in the West.
To start, Christmas isn’t a statutory holiday like it is here. Stores and business are still open on December 25th, although schools are usually closed for the New Year’s break. That break typically starts on December 23rd, which is a national holiday to celebrate Emperor Akihito’s birthday. That holiday will change when Prince Naruhito ascends to the throne since his birthday is on February 23rd.
While Christmas has a certain religious connotation in the US (with more or less Christian symbolism, depending on where you live), Christmas is largely divorced of religious overtones in Japan. And while Christmas in the US is now often seen as a consumerist frenzy with Santa giving presents to the good boys and girls, in Japan it takes on an entirely different context.
Christmas is actually Japan’s biggest lovefest that’s even bigger than Valentine’s day.
If you’re a young couple in Japan, you’re definitely eating out or going on a date on Christmas Eve. Every restaurant in the country is jam-packed with couples, and if you’re not going out with a special friend, you’re definitely complaining about it online in social media.
Christmas Day, on the other hand, is still a day for friends and family, with one specific Japan-centric quirk: everyone orders KFC.
Rather than cooking an enormous turkey or ham with all the trimmings, families in Japan order a big bucket of KFC. It’s Kentucky Fried Chicken’s biggest day, with Japan Rail Pass revealing an estimated 3.6 million Japanese families order KFC on Christmas Day.
The reason for this fried chicken tradition is a little weird, but also a little bit how Santa Claus became the mascot of Western Christmas. In 1974, KFC Japan launched an advertising campaign that was so successful the entire country now considers it a sacred tradition to share a bucket of fried chicken with their family on Christmas day.
And when you think about it, doesn’t it sound a little bit appealing to just order in KFC rather than spending all day making a stuffed turkey?