Fried Chicken for Christmas

I’m spending the holidays in Japan this year. And in Japan’s case, the Christmas season means shopping malls packed past capacity, twinkly lights strewn along store fronts, classic Christmas jingles ringing through supermarkets and… Kentucky Fried Chicken.

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This is the KFC near the elementary school I work at. (It also happens to offer an all-you-can-eat buffet – one of the only two branches in the whole country to offer all-you-can-eat! But that is a post for another time.)

The first time someone asked me “So are you planning on going to KFC for Christmas?”, I was stunned, startled, almost offended! (And understandably so.) No offense to KFC-lovers, but I wouldn’t go to Kentucky Fried Chicken for lunch on an average weekday, let alone on Christmas. A bucket of questionably sourced chicken deep fried in dirt-cheap, chemically modified oil is not the first thing that comes to mind when I imagine a lavish Christmas feast.

But in Japan, it is!

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Hah, and you thought I was kidding, didn’t you?

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Believe it or not, going to KFC on Christmas day has become a nationwide tradition. Every year on the beloved holiday, friends and families line up at their local Kentucky Fried Chicken, huddle around a red and white bucket of battered drumsticks and wings, and enjoy a hearty, soul-warming meal together. (Here’s an article from BBC if you’re interested in reading about how this strange country-wide festivity got its start.)

KFC takes full advantage of the tradition each year by offering deluxe Christmas sets, ranging from 10 to 50 dollars a set. Apparently, though, these sets are so popular that you need to make reservations in advance on KFC Japans’ website, indicating your order and your exact dine-in time, if you want your own on Christmas day.

Curious about what a typical set could get me, I browsed KFC Japans’ site to peruse their seasonal menu options. And, to be honest, it actually doesn’t look half bad. Their most expensive set – a whopping 5100 yen – includes a whole roasted chicken leg, 4 pieces of their original fried chicken, a fresh salad with sliced ham, and a triple berry tiramisu cake.

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Though I admit it may look a bit more appetizing than I expected, the set still doesn’t seem worth the price to me.

(*For those on a budget like me, though, a fried chicken Christmas feast is still very much attainable: even supermarkets and convenience stores offer up their own seasonal specials!)IMG_E7736

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A flyer advertising “premium chicken” sets at my local convenience store.

Since first hearing about this odd Japanese custom, I’ve overcome my initial shock and have gradually begun to warm up to the idea, but I think I still prefer my classic slow roasted 40 pound turkey and mashed potatoes with cranberry sauce for my Christmas dinner of choice. I’m all for participating in local customs and traditions, but this is one tradition I don’t mind abstaining from this year.

(Of course, I have nothing against KFC-on-Christmas-goers though; for those who are in Japan during the holidays and are wanting for a fried chicken feast, I offer my full support!)