Happy Festivus

Every year on December 23rd we celebrate the wild and crazy Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us. So, Happy Festivus!

Festivus is both a parody and a secular holiday celebrated on December 23 that serves as an alternative to participating in the pressures and commercialism of the Christmas season. Originally a family tradition of scriptwriter Dan O’Keefe, who worked on the American sitcom Seinfeld, Festivus was introduced in the Seinfeld episode “The Strike”, written by Daniel O’Keefe’s son Dan O’Keefe. The episode revolves around Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards) returning to work at his old job, H&H Bagels. While dining at Monk’s Restaurant, Jerry, George and Elaine discuss George’s father’s creation of Festivus. Kramer then becomes interested in resurrecting the holiday when, at the bagel shop, Frank Costanza (Jerry Stiller) tells him how he created Festivus as an alternative holiday in response to the commercialization of Christmas.

Festivus Pole

In the episode, the tradition of Festivus begins with an aluminum pole. Frank Costanza cites its “very high strength-to-weight ratio” as appealing. During Festivus, the pole is displayed unadorned. According to Frank, “I find tinsel distracting.”

Dan O’Keefe credits fellow Seinfeld writer Jeff Schaffer with introducing the concept. The aluminum pole was not part of the original O’Keefe family celebration, which centered on putting a clock in a bag and nailing it to a wall.

Festivus Dinner

Some Festivus celebrants emulate the colors shown in the Seinfeld episode by serving meatloaf placed on a bed of lettuce. In “The Strike”, a celebratory dinner is shown on the evening of Festivus prior to the Feats of Strength and during the Airing of Grievances. The on-air meal shows Estelle Costanza serving a sliced reddish colored meat-loaf shaped food on a bed of lettuce. In the episode no alcohol is served at the dinner, but George’s boss, Mr. Kruger, drinks something from a hip flask.

The original holiday dinner in the O’Keefe household featured turkey or ham as described in Dan O’Keefe’s The Real Festivus.

Airing of Grievances

The celebration of Festivus begins with the “Airing of Grievances”, which takes place immediately after the Festivus dinner has been served. In the television episode, Frank Costanza began it with the phrase, “I got a lotta problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it!” It consists of each person lashing out at others and the world about how they have been disappointed in the past year.

Feats of Strength

The Feats of Strength are the final tradition observed in the celebration of Festivus, celebrated immediately following (or in the case of “The Strike”, during) the Festivus dinner. The head of the household selects one person at the Festivus celebration and challenges them to a wrestling match. Tradition states Festivus is not over until the head of the household is pinned. In “The Strike”, however, Kramer manages to circumvent the rule by creating an excuse to leave. The Feats of Strength are mentioned twice in the episode before they actually take place. In both instances, no detail was given as to what had actually happened, but in both instances, George Costanza ran out of the coffee shop in a mad panic, implying he had bad experiences with the Feats of Strength in the past. What the Feats of Strength entailed was revealed at the very end of the episode, when it actually took place. Failing to pin the head of the household results in Festivus continuing until such requirement is met.

Festivus Miracles

Cosmo Kramer twice declares a “Festivus Miracle” during the Festivus celebration in the Costanza household. It is the character Kramer that actually causes the occurrence of two “miracles” by inviting two off-track betting bookies to dinner with Elaine (men whom Elaine wished to avoid), and by causing Jerry’s girlfriend Gwen to believe that Jerry was cheating on her.

*source information on Festivus from wikipedia.org

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