Break out the aluminum pole, Festivus is here!
The holiday brought to the world’s attention by the television show Seinfeld is celebrated every year on December 23rd. Here’s what you need to know to have a successful Festivus celebration.
Festivus was a real holiday before Seinfeld
While depicted in the fictional Seinfeld universe as a creation of Frank Costanza, the holiday was originally created by series writer Daniel O’Keefe’s father, Dan O’Keefe, way back in 1966. It originally took place between February and May but is now celebrated on December 23rd.
On the show, Frank creates the holiday as an alternative to the commercialization of Christmas. He came to this conclusion during a fistfight with another customer at a store. They were fighting over a doll. As Frank “rained blows upon him” he realized that there had to be another way.
Dan O’Keefe coined the name Festivus as a joke but he intuitively picked an accurate one. The word festivus comes from the Latin word festus which literally means holiday. In turn, festus has the same root as feriae, a word that means roughly means “holiday in honor of”. The Ancient Romans celebrated December 23rd as the feriae Larentalia in honor of Acca Larentia. Acca Larentalia was either the adopted mother of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, or a bit of a tart who Hercules won in a dice game.
The Festivus Pole
Festivus is celebrated around an aluminum pole instead of a Christmas tree. This is for two reasons. One, it has a very high strength-to-weight ratio. Two, tinsel is very distracting.
The practices and rites of Festivus traditionally take place during and after Festivus dinner. There are no food specifications or dietary restrictions concerning the meal. Festivus dinner is open to anyone, including Kruger and those two guys from the OTB.
Airing of Grievances
Festivus starts off with the “Airing of Grievances” during which participants tell others gathered how they have disappointed them during the year. It is considered traditional to start off this segment of the evening with the phrase “I got a lot of problems with you people!”
Feats of Strength
The Feats of Strength end the evening’s celebration. At this time the head of the household wrestles other guests until he or she themselves is pinned or chooses to stop. The holiday continues, often painfully, until this occurs. For this reason many participants have replaced this kind of strenuous activity with activities like thumb-wrestling and hula-hooping.
Though Festivus lacks a certain amount of respect due to its perceived origins as an “invented” holiday it is certainly not the first in the United States. Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1907 to honor her own mother and it’s certainly done well for itself.
Jarvis eventually became disillusioned with the holiday she created as she thought it became too commercial.
Frank Costanza would approve.