Dec 22, 2010

Festivus ~December 23rd

Festivus is celebrated every year on December 23. However, one element of this holiday is that it can be celebrated on various days in December and even at various times throughout the year, according to the celebrant's discretion.

Festivus is a holiday that was introduced on an episode of the television sitcom "Seinfeld" on December 18, 1997 and over the years it has become increasingly more popular. In the episode "The Strike," Frank Castanza describes to Cosmo Kramer how and why he came up with the Festivus holiday several years earlier. Frank explains that during an encounter where he and another father were fighting over the last of a certain doll, upon which time Frank inflicted several blows upon the man, destroying the doll in the process, Frank decides he doesn't like the commercialism of Christmas and figures there must be a better way to celebrate the holidays. And thus Festivus was created.

Origins of Festivus
In reality, Festivus was created in 1966 by a writer named Dan O'Keefe. O'Keefe had read about a similar event in a book, made a few tweaks to the idea, and, after the named popped into his head, decided to call it Festivus. The original Festivus took place in February 1966, as a celebration of O'Keefe's first date with his future wife Deborah, but is now celebrated on December 23.

So how did Festivus turn up on the Seinfeld show? Well, Dan O'Keefe is the father of Daniel O'Keefe, a screenwriter for the Seinfeld show. The younger O'Keefe wrote the comical storyline into an episode of the show, adding a few new elements, and the rest is history.

Elements of Festivus (from
  • Slogan ~ "A Festivus for the rest of us!"
  • The Festivus Pole ~ The Costanza's tradition begins with an aluminum pole, which Frank praises for it's "very high strength-to-weight ratio". During Festivus, the unadorned Festivus pole is displayed. The pole was chosen apparently in opposition to the commercialization of highly decorated Christmas trees, because it is very "low-maintenance", and also because the holiday's patron, Frank Costanza, "find[s] tinsel distracting." (Don't we all?)  (The Festivus Pole was not part of the original observance, it was added for the Seinfeld show.)
  • The Airing of Grievances ~ At the beginning of the Festivus dinner, each participant tells friends and family of all the instances where they disappointed him or her that year. As quoted from Frank Costanza: "I've got a lot of problems with you people, and now you're going to hear about it." (Go to to download a grievance worksheet.) 
  • Festivus Dinner ~ In "The Strike," a celebratory dinner is shown on the evening of Festivus prior to the feats of strength. The on-air meal appeared to be meatloaf or spaghetti in a red sauce. The original holiday dinner at the O'Keefe household featured turkey or ham followed by a Pepperidge Farm cake decorated with M&M's.
  • The Feats of Strength ~ After the dinner, the head of the family tests his or her strength against one participant of the head's choosing. Festivus is not considered over until the head of the family has been pinned to the ground. A participant is allowed to decline to attempt to pin the head of the family only if they have something better to do instead.
  • Festivus Miracles ~ Another growing tradition, although not used by all celebrants of the holiday, is the phenomenon of the Festivus Miracle. (This is when fairly non-extraordinary coincidences are referred to as Festivus Miracles.)     
Although the Festivus celebration is based on creating a non-commercialized holiday, you can go to to purchase an aluminum Festivus pole and the book Festivus, A Holiday For The Rest of Us by author Allen Salkin.


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