By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette

Yes We Can

I’m a big fan of holiday tradition, especially for this time of year. I have my favorite routines, my favorite movies, my favorite foods, songs, gift ideas…. You get the idea. But I also like learning about new traditions.

There’s been one in particular that I’ve heard about for years which has always sort of fascinated me, so in the grand experiment of trying new things, I went down a strange and overstuffed road of fast food and Japanese traditions.

I need to walk this week off.

While we celebrate the American holiday season with the evergreen favorite of turkey or ham, Japan is all about Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas.

For about 50 years now, having “Christmas with the Colonel” is a well established and practiced holiday tradition overseas. According to the British Broadcasting Company, an estimated 3.6 million Japanese families get their chicken on with the fast food chain this time of year.

The first Japanese KFC opened in 1970. Thanks to its manager, Takeshi Okawara, he started selling the Christmas “Party Barrel,” where instead of doing the traditional American Christmas turkey dinner, he did the same concept with chicken. By 1974, the campaign was known as “Kentucky for Christmas.” With there not being a lot in the way of regional Christmas traditions for Japan, the promotion took off.

Since then, the “party barrel” idea has expanded, with stuffed roast chicken, ribs, coleslaw, cakes, or even your very own bottle of KFC branded wine. Colonel Sanders, the restaurant’s mascot, also undergoes a holiday makeover, where he starts sporting the traditional Santa Claus outfit.

The meal thing isn’t taken lightly. If families don’t pre-book in advance by Dec. 23, they’ll have to wait in long lines just to even get through the restaurant’s doors to place the order.

I’m not a stranger to exploring food trends and traditions, though it’s been a while since I’ve visited a KFC (for the sake of full transparency, I’ve sometimes longed for a good old-fashioned Bill’s Fried Chicken platter since I’ve moved back home).

Anyway, the last time I went the KFC route was during their “Double Down” promotion, so it’s been a while. But for the sake of research, I wanted to see if our local sanctuary of Harland Sanders’ chicken-crafted wonders had the Yuletide spirit in their hearts, so off I went.

For science.

What do you know, they did in fact have a festive bucket of chicken patterned after one of their vintage 1966 designs. I was entranced by this chance to expand my horizons, and knew this was the best idea I had all season.

Konnichiwa indeed, my friends. – Photo by Guy Chapman

There’s only so much holiday wonder one can generate from a photo of a middle-aged man holding a bucket of chicken, but I was determined to find it for not only science, but the children of the world. The Missus and I sat down with our mixture of original and crispy, a dollop of mashed potatoes, and macaroni and biscuits as we watched Home Alone for one of our first holiday movies of 2020.

I didn’t feel much like moving for the rest of the night.

The next night, the Missus was craving more chicken and sides. “Are we really doing this,” I asked her, but after 16 years, I’ve come to realize that a woman’s heart knows what it wants, and yes, I would be again be resigned to sitting in the drive-thru that evening.

“For the children,” I muttered as I reminded myself that 2020 has taken me to some strange places.

We again got the 1966 bucket design. The meal wasn’t met with quite as much enthusiasm, and there were a lot more leftovers this round.

Finally tapped out of chicken, I decided to see what other attempts the Colonel has done to wrangle up total domination of the winter season. To my surprise, there is indeed more.

So much more.

Christmas Eve with Colonel Sanders – Courtesy photo

I bet you didn’t know this was a thing, now did you? But it is. As far back as 1967, in fact. A full year after my faux-vintage bucket.

What’s more, this was the first in a series of several albums from KFC. I don’t know if old Harland belted out a few holiday favorites by changing any lyrics to be more chicken-themed, but for the spirit of Christmas magic, I’d like to think he did.

Also this year (because 2020), the Lifetime Channel is putting out a Colonel Sanders themed romance film on Dec. 13 (because of course they did) called A Recipe for Seduction, starring Mario Lopez as Colonel Sanders. I don’t know why any of this coincidentally happened during my research for unusual holiday traditions, but I prefer to think of it as kismet and a penciled in confirmation for my television watching schedule this weekend.

Like any good investigative reporter, I did all this research so you didn’t have to.

Merry Chickmas, everyone (I got your back, Harland).

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