Day 18 | Japanese Tradition: Fried Chicken For Christmas

Written by Jack Boardman

Fried Chicken For Christmas: Cheat Meal of The Year

Many people celebrate Christmas with a traditional roast turkey, ham or duck and all the trimmings. Whatever your tipple, there’s the traditional egg nog or brandy. And when it comes to sweets, the list is almost endless with mince pies and Christmas pudding to name just two.

It might come as a surprise that among other Christmas-celebrating cultures in the world, their culinary customs are quite different. The one that tops them all has to be Japan, where instead of turkey, sprouts and gravy, they opt for a traditional celebratory bucket of fried chicken.


The Japanese tradition involves many thousands of people leaving their homes and heading to the nearest Kentucky Fired Chicken on 24 December each year for Christmas Eve. The tradition sees so many people taking part that people reserve KFC Party Barrels several months in advance. Christmas TV adverts even include reminders to book in advance at local KFCs. Officials have revealed that more chicken is sold in Japan on the few days building up to Christmas that in half a regular month, not to mention how many extra staff are needed to help cope with the demands.


Apparently, this phenomenon, unrelated to Christmas, dates back to a marketing campaign in the 1970s when KFC opened its initial stores in Japan. With less than one per cent of Japan’s population being Christian, few people celebrate Christmas in the religious sense, yet have wholly embraced the commercial elements of the season. This marketing campaign piggybacked on the growing market and a new tradition was born, with many Japanese people getting their orders in as early as October.

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Now that the thought of fried chicken has firmly entered your mind and it’s all you can think about, let’s look at the benefits of having a KFC, or the equivalent, as your Christmas meal.


The whole Christmas holiday is essentially one long cheat day. At the very least, Christmas day is all about sitting down and sharing a meal that has nothing to do with your workout goals or health gains.


Christmas dinner, like KFC, does include much of the nutrition you need. If you’re a weightlifter or mass gainer, the calories, carbs and proteins are a way to gain that mass if combined with some compound lifting.


KFC, for many, is an occasional indulgence, but to eat a Christmas dinner or KFC everyday will see you consume excessive calories. We’re not talking health food here, but as a one off for that ultimate cheat day, what nutrition or lack thereof are you getting from fried chicken?


Chicken is an excellent source of protein, among other things. The question is how processed it is to be healthy, so a DIY KFC might be your better option if you’re bothered. A fried chicken leg is around 300 calories. Of this, around 190 calories come from unhealthy fat. Another negative is the high amount of sodium found in KFC food.


That said, t’s not all bad if you are a weight lifter, high intensity trainer or cardio obsessed, because there are KFC options that get you your carbs (which you need for energy) and protein (which will help to build muscle) and also have a relatively low amount of saturated fat.


So if you’re wanting to make the most of your cheat day and get involved with the Japanese tradition, maybe opt for the leaner variety like the hot wings or breast options, with the corn and mashed potatoes for carbs.

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Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye Reid has a Bachelor of Science in Sport and Exercise Physiology and a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and Sports Nutrition. Faye has worked with numerous high-profile oranisations, such as Men's Health, Sky Sports, Huddersfield Giants, Warrington Wolves, British Dressage and GB Rowing, providing her expert sports science support. Find out more about Faye's experience here: She puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding.

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