Ladies and gentlemen, we are only thirteen short days away from December 23rd--that's right, we're thirteen days away from Festivus 2012!
It seems like only yesterday that Festivus went from an obscure practice held by a handful of families to reaching widespread fame and notoriety thanks to an episode of the smash hit sitcom 'Seinfeld.'
What is Festivus, you ask?
Festivus, Latin for joyous, holiday, or feast day, is a secular holiday for those who wish to celebrate the holiday season without the pressures of commercialism bound up in Christmas, Hanukkah, and similar wintertime traditions. Many people believe that Festivus was created by the writers of 'Seinfeld' but in reality, 'Seinfeld' merely made it world-famous in 1997. The holiday itself was conceived way back in 1966.
Festivus was created by Dan O'Keefe, a writer and editor of "Reader's Digest" magazine. His son, Daniel O'Keefe II, was a screenwriter on 'Seinfeld' in the 1990s and decided to bring his father's holiday creation to the masses. The holiday is featured in the 'Seinfeld' 9x10 "The Strike."
Since the episode in 1997, Investigative Journalist Allen Salkin published a book on the adoption of the holiday, which has mass appeal due to its anti-commercialist message and tongue-in-cheek traditions.
Although invented by O'Keefe in reality, the holiday's creation on 'Seinfeld' was attributed to fan favorite Frank Costanza, George's father. In this sense, Frank Costanza has sort of become the Santa Claus of Festivus; a fictional character associated with the season and its traditions.
"His father hated all the commercial and religious aspects of Christmas, so he made up his own holiday." - Jerry Seinfeld, discussing the mythical origins of Festivus
The other important quotation about the creation of Festivus is a dialogue between Frank and the beloved character Kramer, who is fascinated by Frank's holiday:
- Frank Costanza: "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."
- Cosmo Kramer: "What happened to the doll?"
- Frank Costanza: "It was destroyed. But out of that a new holiday was born: a Festivus for the rest of us!"
- Kramer: "That must have been some kind of doll."
- Frank Costanza: "She was."
So what is Festivus all about? What traditions does the holiday entail? The most important tradition is pictured above: The Festivus Pole.
- The pole is aluminum, sturdy, and undecorated. (There is to be absolutely no tinsel involved in any Festivus decorating--none whatsoever). When not being used for the holiday season, you may store your Festivus pole in the basement or a crawlspace.
During the holiday, the pole is to be displayed in a prominent location in the home; the middle of a family room would make a good focal point. Some practitioners have elected to put some form of hat atop the pole, but no decoration is necessary.
The Festivus dinner is similar to a Christmas dinner, however the dessert that follows is a cake that has been decorated with candy pressed into the icing. Given the anti-commercialism of the holiday, any discount candy will do--in fact, the better deal one gets when purchasing the candy, the more honorable the Festivus cake.
The Airing of Grievances, perhaps the most confusing of all Festivus traditions, takes place immediately after Festivus dinner has been served (but prior to the Festivus dessert). it consists of heedlessly lashing out at loved ones regarding the various ways they have angered or disappointed you in the year since the last Festivus.
The Airing of Grievances is a contentious point for many Festivus practitioners; some elect to take the tradition incredibly seriously, causing emotional damage during the holiday. Others see it as an invigorating opportunity to playfully break with other holiday traditions, using the Airing to poke harmless fun at one another instead. To each their own--after all, this is a Festivus for the rest of us!
Finally, following the Festivus dessert, there are the Feats of Strength. During the feats, it is customary for loved ones to wrestle one another. Some traditions claim that Festivus does not officially end until the Head of the Household (to be determined by the group) is pinned to the ground.
- OPTIONAL TRADITIONS:
There is a running gag regarding the Festivus Miracle. A Festivus Miracle differs from a Christmas Miracle insofar as a Festivus Miracle is something entirely ordinary and quotidian. The miracle is pronounced, shouted, by a Festivus celebrator, pointing out the perfectly ordinary thing that took place.
- "The chicken is done! It's a Festivus Miracle!"
- "It's snowing! It's a Festivus Miracle!"
- "Bill brought beer! It's a Festivus Miracle!"
Some could argue that the celebration of quotidian events lends one to appreciate the small joys in everyday life. Others could counter that it's just a dumb joke and tell them to stop overthinking things. Both are correct.
- Another optional tradition is the eschewing of all bagels; bagels are considered the enemy of the Festivus holiday. Festivus YES; Bagels NO.
Above all else, the creation and subsequent pop culture popularity of Festivus is a prime example of the Postmodern epoch in which we find ourselves...
It's a Festivus Miracle!!
Happy Festivus, TVRagers!!