Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas in Japan

Merry Christmas from everyone at Mellow Monk! And Happy Chanukah, too! (Which starts tonight this year.)

Christmas is celebrated in Japan, but obviously a little differently than in the U.S. First of all, Christmas day isn't a national holiday, so everyone does their celebrating on Christmas eve. In fact, most Japanese believe that Christmas eve is Christmas: on the 25th, people talk about Christmas as if it's already over.

Another big difference is that Christmas is less of a family holiday and more of an event for friends and young couples. Offices have office parties, and young couples go out for a night on the town.

For the typical Japanese family, a Christmas eve without a Christmas cake would be like an American Christmas without a Christmas tree. Kids in Japan usually don't get presents for Christmas, but they do expect mom or dad to bring home a cake.

Perhaps the strangest (to me) aspect of Christmas in Japan is the popularity of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Yes, you read that correctly. That was not a typo. Kentucky Fried Chicken is so popular on Christmas eve in Japan that most of the KFC's shut down the eat-in area of restaurant and sell take-out orders only. Some KFC's do so much business on Christmas eve that they only sell phoned-in orders. Nine times out of ten, a surprised look is what I see on the face of a Japanese whom I tell that KFC is not standard fare on the typical American Christmas menu.

Whoever it was at KFC that pulled that one off was a marketing genius. I'd love to know the details. Another famous example of a foreign corporation artificially "creating" a custom in Japan is the De Beers diamond company and the "sweet 10 diamond ring." But that, as they say, is another story.

—Mellow Monk

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