photo by DRosenback
It is that time of year again, fresh snow is on the ground and people come together to rejoice in the holiday. Grandparents, cousins, Uncle Leos, siblings, “high-talkers”, “close-talkers”, women with “man-hands” and parents gather together in love for one another. The accoutrements of holiday decorations are neatly placed throughout the house and dinner is cooked with tender care. The aroma of cooked food coming from the kitchen, brings everyone to sit down at the table and yada-yada-yada… They begin telling each other how each person has disappointed them throughout the year. The holiday being celebrated is called Festivus and it has become a cultural phenomenon.
Gaining popularity through the television show Seinfeld, people throughout the world have begun practicing the traditions of this made-up holiday. In the episode, “The Strike,” George Costanza has to come to grips of a holiday that was created by his father, Frank. When George was growing up, Frank became fed up with the consumerism that was strongly tied to Christmas. After an altercation at a toy store, Frank invented Festivus to be able to celebrate a holiday without any ties to commercial products.
As Frank so delicately puts it, “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.”
Thus, Festivus was born and the world was never the same.
As we learn from the episode, there are three key elements to celebrating this holiday. The first is to purchase a sturdy aluminum pole to display in the living room. There is no need for Christmas trees or decorations on the pole since Frank finds tinsel to be “distracting.” The second step is to conduct the “Airing of Grievances.” This is a time when everyone gathers over dinner and explains in detail their disappointments, with those in company, over the past year. Finally, the celebrations are concluded with the “Feats of Strength,” where everyone must wrestle until the head of the household is pinned.
In the years that followed the airing of “The Strike” people began celebrating the made-up holiday. It now has an official date of December 23rd where friends and family gather to practice the traditions introduced to us by Frank Constanza. Some are strict observers who devoutly air their grievances on its official date every year. Others just use Festivus as an excuse to have Seinfeld-themed parties. With the aluminum pole proudly standing erect in the living room, they gather in costume of their favorite characters of the show.
Not only have people begun preaching the words of Frank Costanza in the privacy of their own homes, members of the government are also proud supporters. In 2005, the governor of Wisconson, Jim Doyle, officially displayed an aluminum pole in his Executive Residence. He then became known as “Governor Festivus.” A few years later, the governor of Illinois erected a pole in the state capitol building and had an official “Airing of Grievances” on behalf of the citizens of that state.
“A Festivus for the rest of us” is now ingrained into most people’s psyche. Official aluminum poles can be purchased for all practicing members of the holiday. Entire books have been written about the phenomenon, yarmulkes and t-shirts adorned with “Happy Festivus” are a common site and Ben & Jerry’s created a seasonal flavor in honor of the celebrations. In a religiously tolerant society, Festivus is now holding steady with the other heavy-hitting holidays celebrated at the end of each year.
So this coming December 23rd, dust off that aluminum pole, yell your frustrations at one another, strap on some wrestling shoes and keep and eye out for Festivus miracles. It is a holiday for young and old. “Double-dippers” and “anti-dentites.” All are welcome to celebrate. Let us all become “master’s of our domain” and celebrate Festivus in harmony with one another. Frank Costanza wouldn’t have it any other way.
Happy Festivus to all and to all a good night!