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Today's a Festivus for the Rest of Us

A Day to Celebrate a Non-Holiday Holiday Brought About by "Seinfeld"

It can best be described as an unlikely, non-holiday holiday celebrated each year on this day born from a bizarrely classic episode of the iconic sitcom "Seinfeld."

So what's the deal with Festivus?

In theory, it is the antithesis of Christmas and Hanukkah, shunning the commercialism of this season by trading trips to tree lots and lighting menorahs for a single, spartan aluminum pole -- a Milwaukee-based company sells Festivus poles for $31.39, plus shipping -- while incorporating the Airing of Grievances. 

And for dessert, instead of the Festivus fruitcake that no one actually eats anyway, there are the Feats of Strength.

If it sounds crazy … well, it is. There is the case of a California prisoner who cited his beliefs in the non-holiday holiday as cause to get double servings of Kosher meals behind bars -- a headline so bizarrely real, it sounds like a recycled "Seinfeld" plotline. Not to mention an offshoot celebratory occasion for nudists in St. Louis called "Fleshtivus."

However, Festivus also inspired a Ben and Jerry's limited edition ice cream. And it has inspired celebrations from coast to coast like the ones that will take place today. Ones where people will gather around the aluminum pole, enjoy a good meal and vent their frustrations.

In other words: a diversion from the season's other holidays without fighting mall traffic since there are no presents exchanged.

Although Festivus became popular because of a season nine episode of "Seinfeld" entitled "The Strike" and sounds like the byproduct of too much egg nog, the non-holiday holiday is actually rooted in reality. Show writer Daniel O'Keefe's father created the counter to the secular, commercialized winter holidays, although the son obviously amped up the outrageousness before a live, studio audience.

In the episode, Jerry Stiller's Frank Costanza played the part of Festivus creator, explaining his skewed logic to Michael Richards' Kramer thusly:  “Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way. … But out of that a new holiday was born: a Festivus for the rest of us!”

From there, Costanza explained the other hallmarks of his holiday, ranging from the aluminum pole utilized because it does not require decoration (tinsel is distracting) and possesses a high weight-to-strength ratio. 

After the feast, there is the Airing of Grievances -- which, lets face it, who among us doesn't have a little hostility they want to unleash during this holiday season? You could begin it as Costanza did by telling anyone within earshot that, as he so indelicately put it, "I got a lot of problems with you people!" It could be over someone shooting you a dirty look, stealing your parking spot … or not being able to spare a square of toilet paper.

And there is the final piece of Festivus, which is seemingly part and parcel with the Airing of Grievances: The Feats of Strength. Although it is supposed to be the head of the household challenging an opponent of his or her choice, the episode saw Frank Costanza challenge his son George to a wrestling match -- "Festivus isn't over until you pin me," the father told the son.

Just a suggestion: instead of chancing a 9-1-1 call, consider keeping the evening-ending challenge with a Seinfeldian theme along the lines of an Elaine Benes danceoff (video) or a George Costanza-inspired game of Frogger (video).

Instead, celebrate Festivus for what it is. Gather around the pole, have your feast, air your grievances, and enjoy the diversion from the holiday season this non-holiday holiday brings.

Do you celebrate Festivus? Tell us how you do so in the comments section below.

Nick Muson December 23, 2011 at 04:23 PM
He's a Festivus Scrooge.
Chris Nesi December 23, 2011 at 04:34 PM
Well, he did technically air grievances, so maybe the Festivus spirit is alive and well in Steve after all. It's a Festivus miracle!
Deft Atheist December 23, 2011 at 05:26 PM
Fancy that Steve, I find the multitude of churches, religious billboards, driveling stations devoted to religious worship, Christmas, Easter, Lent, Passover, the NON-Separation of church and state (which runs rampant in courthouses, schools, and government), and people going out of their way to say "God bless you" when I sneeze to be the most tired, annoying, idiotic and trying-to-fit-in things of the entire year. But mostly its the people that participate in those things Steve, that are so very tiring. It is the cowards who sit behind a forced tradition and whine when someone stands up for the Bill of Rights and shouts they've had enough. That's what is tired, sickening, and annoyingly childish. By not standing up for a cause in which all can benefit and instead hiding in the group only to raise your voice when those around you do, you help keep all the other sheep in the herd. General idiocy and ignorance are indeed what help make the world go round. Happy Festivus, Saturnalia, and Yuletide Steve! Keep making the world go round!
Martin Golan December 24, 2011 at 08:58 PM
I celebrate Festivus and Hannukah (really a very minor holiday, only cranked up in response to Christmas). I love Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us. I have many neighbors with signs saying "Keep Christ In Christmas," and I agree with them -- and also keep it out of the public square.
Loren Svetvilas December 26, 2011 at 04:37 PM
Thank you for the piece! Love it!

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