Why is Colonel Sanders the Japanese Santa Claus?

  • Have you ever wondered how Japanese people celebrate Christmas? Well, maybe you haven’t, since only less than one percent of Japan’s population is Christian and Christmas is not a Japanese national holiday. Nevertheless, it is a very commercial event due to the Christmas spirit created with the abundant trees, decorations, lighting, advertisements and the dressings.




    In addition, for the past forty years, a custom, only found in Japan, takes place every year during Christmas; it’s the celebration of this Christian holiday with a bucket of KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken). Every winter, around the 23rd of December, the Colonel Sanders figure becomes Santa Claus in Japan and draws in countless customers with the Paati Bareru (Party barrel) offer.

    Apparently, during the three Christmas days in Japan, KFC receives not only more customers than on any other day, but also, more than the total number of their customers in half a year! With that being said, you’re probably wondering why is this custom practiced and how did it start?

    How did it start?


    According to the popular belief, this custom originated when a foreigner, in 1974, wanting to celebrate Christmas with a Turkey, decided to buy some chicken from KFC as a substitute. The reasons were the following: Firstly, turkey is rare in Japan and secondly, apartments in Japan rarely have ovens big enough to fit a turkey. With the KFC employees noticing that, KFC started a Christmas Campaign in Japan in 1974 called Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii (Kentucky for Christmas). With the campaign being successful, KFC launched the Christmas Party Bucket in 1985 featuring Chicken, salad, cake and ice cream for 3880yen.

    Furthermore, this custom became so popular that many pre-order their buckets two months in advance.


    Japanese people never fail to create unique customs to keep themselves entertained with unordinary leisure to take a break from the routine work lifestyle. So if you happen to be in Japan during Christmas realizing you may not celebrate it this year in your traditional way, gather with your Japanese friends for a Japanese Christmas experience lining up at KFC following a one in a kind party that may decrease your chances of feeling homesick.