While Christmas in the many parts of the world may conjure up visions of sugarplums and holiday hams, in Japan a certain fast-food staple takes center stage, and it's all thanks to a clever marketing ploy by Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC).

Over the last four decades, KFC has managed to make fried chicken synonymous with Christmas in the country. An estimated 3.6 million Japanese families eat KFC during the Christmas season, reported the BBC.

Just a few months after the first KFC opened in Japan in 1970, a local KFC manager had the idea to sell a Christmas "party barrel," inspired by the elaborate American turkey dinner, but with fried chicken instead of turkey. Premium barrels include options such as ribs or roast chicken with stuffing. They even serve Christmas wine.

The party barrel campaign "filled a void," Joonas Rokka, associate professor of marketing at the Emlyon Business School in France, told the BBC. "There was no tradition of Christmas in Japan, and so KFC came in and said, this is what you should do on Christmas."

Only about 1% to 2% of the Japanese population is Christian, so the country didn't have many established Christmas traditions. KFC helped build secular and commercial traditions with the simple message: "At Christmas, you eat chicken."

Across Japan, KFC locations dress Colonel Sanders up in Santa Claus gear for the holiday season. Millions of people weather long lines to order fried chicken weeks in advance to carry on the tradition.

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