Playing chicken with Christmas | Brantford Exhibitor

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In Japan, he is the epitome of Christmas with his designer suit, white beard and mustache, open smile and the treats he offers. No, not Santa Claus – Colonel Sanders. Yes, that Colonel Sanders.

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It’s the bizarre story of how Kentucky Fried Chicken became a Christmas staple in a country where Christians make up 1% of the population.

And, make no mistake about it. millions of Japanese will celebrate the holiday with KFC party barrels, with sides such as coleslaw, shrimp gratin, and chocolate or berry tiramisu cake. Sales will increase tenfold in December, giving the Japanese division of the channel a third of its annual revenue.

When the Spanish and Portuguese introduced Christianity to Japan in the 1600s, it was banned by authorities who feared cultural infiltration. Then, when the Americans introduced Western ideas to the islands in the 1850s, the Japanese authorities wanted to modernize their country.

Thus, they encouraged Western clothing and traditions – including Christmas with all its festivities, but without any religious association. The holidays were secular from the start.

Almost a century later, American troops occupied Japan after WWII and popularized both Christmas and consumerism. As the country recovered, locals pursued what they have dubbed the Three Sacred Treasures: a black-and-white television, refrigerator, and washing machine.

Then, at a trade show in Osaka in 1970, a KFC recruiter offered entrepreneur Takeshi Okawara an office job. Instead, he applied to be the in-store manager of Japan’s premier outlet so he could learn the trade. He learned – the hard way.

The English signs and the store’s red and white striped roof confused people, who often thought the place was a barbershop.

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But Okawara believed in the product. He took a break when a local Catholic school hired him to dress as Santa Claus and distribute fried chicken at a kindergarten Christmas party. Then he got another gig at school and he started dressing Col. Sanders statue from his store as Santa Claus.

It saved his business.

The announcement of the holiday novelty spread, and Okawara gave an interview to the national television station NHK. When asked if KFC for Christmas was common overseas, he lied and said yes.

He later said he regretted the lie but knew people would buy more chicken if they thought it was the custom in Europe and North America. And they did.

As historian Nathan Hopson told Business Insider, Christmas was associated with an exotic and romantic take on the West, unrelated to religion or history. It was an “empty symbol” into which anyone could “pour their own hopes and dreams”.

Now, for millions of people, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without KFC.

For millions of others here, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a number of things they’ve added to the mix. Ironically, our situation is not much different from where Japan started.

Although the number of Christians here is well over one percent, the majority of the last two generations know little about Jesus or the Bible, let alone the church. For them, and for many named Christians, Christmas is an empty symbol into which they have poured their own hopes and dreams.

These hopes include strong family bonds, relief for the poor, instilling in their children a sense of compassion and service (at least during the holidays) and peace on earth – between nations and neighbors.

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Of course, none of this is separate from the excessive consumerism that drives both the holidays and the guilt that drives a large chunk of charitable giving each December. Details vary from year to year, depending on what’s hot, but the pursuit of the Three Sacred Treasures is still ongoing:

For many people today, Christmas was and will remain a century old celebration. It is entirely up to them. But vacations were never designed to focus primarily on family, world peace, or even giving.

Instead, it was a celebration of peace and reconciliation with God, accomplished through the cross and the forgiveness of the sin that separated us from Him.

For Christians, this is always the message. Our three sacred treasures are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and we must be as faithful as possible to the story of how God became flesh to restore our relationship with Him.

But could I suggest that we stop wasting time and energy playing chicken with skeptics who have a competing view of Christmas?

Their version contrasts sharply with that of faith, so there is little confusion between the two. And as the annual orgy of excess is not about to end, at least we can console ourselves in the good done during the holidays.

As Paul says, it is not our responsibility to judge the behavior of those outside the church, but to ensure appropriate attitudes and behavior within it (1 Cor. 5 : 12, 13).

So focus with other believers on preserving Emmanuel’s true meaning, “God with us”. But as I Peter 3:15 tells us, “Always be ready to give a gentle and respectful response to anyone who asks you for the hope you have” when they begin to feel that there must be more to Christmas than ‘a barrel of fun.

Share your thoughts with Rick Gamble at [email protected] He runs an independent, non-denominational church in Brantford called Followers of Christ (bit.ly/3fs3NCd) and teaches media at Wilfrid Laurier University.

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