Christmas has passed and the decorations are down (except at the houses of THOSE people–you know who you are.) There was a fascinating Yuletide story that I didn’t get to during the Holiday Season, however, one that actually appeared on the front page of the December 19th edition of the Wall Street Journal.
Japan, as one might expect with a Christian population of less than 1%, does not celebrate Christmas in any official way, but also, as one might expect given the Americanization of that country, the Holiday is celebrated unofficially. While Christmas trees are displayed and certain traditional (by our standards) music is played, by far the most popular Christmas tradition is to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken and Christmas cakes. In fact, the tradition is so popular that Japanese citizens begin ordering their Christmas chicken dinners as early as October. They may also be ordered on line. The fried chicken-at-Christmas frenzy began in the early 70s and has been combined with white cake with icing and/or strawberries, essentially strawberry shortcake. In Japan, it’s not Christmas if it’s not finger-lickin’ good.
This chicken-chomping chic might seem strange at first, but I can imagine that many a harried mom who has spent hours preparing turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, rolls, pies, and cookies might much rather see the Colonel making his way down the chimney with a big bucket of deliciousness in one hand and a fistful of napkins in the other than spend another exhausting day (week) in the kitchen. Especially, according to the WSJ when “a basic KFC Christmas-chicken set costs a little less than $35 and includes chicken, salad, and cake.”
The funny thing is that this tradition does not seem strange to me at all. When I was a boy and my grandmother lived in Baltimore City, we would pick her up, usually on Christmas Eve, and bring her out to our house in the country for the Holidays. Grandma always had a hankering for certain Kentucky fowl that had been deep-fried in 11 herbs and spices and so we would pick up a bucket of the Colonel’s fare for our Christmas Eve feast.
Perhaps the lesson is this: Any tradition that brings people together, be they a family or a nation is a good tradition. It occurs to me that the Middle East is overrun by militaries and militias, but what is really needed is just one Colonel. It’s hard to hate and eat Kentucky Fried Chicken at the same time.