Cultural Bit: Christmas in Japan is a rather unique experience. It’s extremely recent that Christmas even be celebrated on a national level in Japan, but has been going on long enough for some unique traditions to take hold.
In most of the world, Christmas is a time for reflection on peace and acts of charity, both to loved ones and the less fortunate. However, in much of Asia, Christmas is treated as a romantic holiday on par with (if not exceeding) Valentine’s Day or White Day.
Christmas Eve/Day are considered prime date nights and, if you’ve been dating for a while, there’s an even greater expectation to propose. Reservations for fancy restaurants and love hotels are typically booked solid until well after New Year’s. Christmas songs, another holiday tradition to recently take off, tend to focus on romantic ballads over joyful nostalgia.
Another quirk is the tradition of eating KFC for Christmas dinner. This tradition started in the 80′s, a time when very few Japanese celebrated Christmas in any capacity. For unknown reasons, KFC decided to change that and launched a huge ad campaign mostly targeting women and teen girls. This campaign was so successful that it effectively started Christmas in Japan as we know it today.
To this day, lines wrapped around every available KFC are a common sight as early as 2 weeks before Christmas, and people often have to call ahead to reserve buckets. Assuming the Colonel’s sold out of original recipe, chicken karaage is also an acceptable substitute.