A Festivus for the rest of us!
Festivus is a fictional holiday invented and celebrated by Frank Costanza1, a character from the American sitcom Seinfeld, a 'show about nothing'. Frank created the holiday when he finally became fed up with Christmas. The Costanzas' celebration of Festivus served as a subplot in an episode titled 'The Strike', which originally aired on 18 December, 1997. In the story, Festivus is celebrated exclusively by the Costanzas on the 23 December, but now it has become something of an unofficial holiday, and some more serious Seinfeld fans actually observe the holiday.
The idea for the fake holiday to be celebrated in Seinfeld is a contribution from Dan O'Keefe, one of the writers who worked on that episode. His father once read a book published in the 1960s about obscure holidays and their rituals, and the family actually practised some of the strange traditions. The Festivus traditions are also based on information in the book, and what the O'Keefes practised.
Origins and Traditions
George, Festivus is your heritage - it's part of who you are.
I hate Festivus!
Frank explains to Kramer2 that years ago, he set out to purchase a doll for his son, George3, as a Christmas gift. While he reached for the last doll on the store shelf, another man did the same. As Frank 'rained blows' upon the other man, he suddenly realised there must be another way, and so a new holiday was born: a Festivus for the rest of us! The doll was destroyed, by the way.
The Festivus Pole
It's made from aluminum. Very high strength-to-weight ratio.
To spite the commercialisation of materialistic Christmas, obnoxious decorations are not tolerated in the traditions of Festivus. Instead of a tree adorned with lights, ornaments and 'distracting' tinsel, a plain aluminum pole is the only Festivus decoration.
The Airing of Grievances
I got a lot of problems with you people!
At the table, before the Festivus dinner, the Airing of Grievances is the first ritual. Each person takes turns telling the other people present about all the things they have done to make him or her angry within the past twelve months.
The Feats of Strength
Until you pin me, George, Festivus is not over!
After the Airing of Grievances come the Feats of Strength. This is apparently a different task each year. In 'The Strike', the honour goes to George, who must wrestle his father. Earlier in the episode, Frank plays a tape recording of a previous Feat of Strength George had to perform, which seemed to have involved reading a poem without his glasses.
It's a Festivus Miracle!
- There are two books written about Festivus. Festivus: A Holiday for the Rest of Us by Allen Salkin and The Real Festivus by Daniel O'Keefe. These books have forewords by Jerry Stiller and Jason Alexander.
- In 2000, Ben & Jerry's produced a gingerbread ice cream flavour called, you guessed it, Festivus. It has since been discontinued.
- You can actually buy Festivus Poles from a Milwaukee, Wisconsin company.
- There is a brand of wine named Festivus.