Festivus is an annual holiday created by writer Dan O'Keefe and introduced into popular culture by his son Daniel, a scriptwriter for the TV show Seinfeld. Although the original Festivus took place in February 1966 as a celebration of O'Keefe's first date with his wife, Deborah, many people now celebrate the holiday on December 23, as depicted on theÂ Seinfeld episode "The Strike". According to O'Keefe, the name Festivus "just popped into his head." The holiday includes novel practices such as the "Airing of Grievances", in which each person tells everyone else all the ways they have disappointed him or her over the past year. Also, after the Festivus meal, the "Feats of Strength" are performed, involving wrestling the head of the household to the floor, with the holiday only ending if the head of the household is actually pinned. These conventions originated with the TV episode. The original holiday featured far more peculiar practices, as detailed in the younger Daniel O'Keefe's book The Real Festivus, which provides a first-person account of an early version of the Festivus holiday as celebrated by the O'Keefe family, and how O'Keefe amended or replaced details of his father's invention to create the Seinfeld episode.
Some people, influenced or inspired by Seinfeld, now celebrate the holiday in varying degrees of seriousness; the spread of Festivus in the real world is chronicled in the book Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us.
Festivus is introduced in "The Strike", which revolves around Cosmo Kramer returning to work at H&H Bagels. He does so after learning that a 12-year strike in which he participated has ended (because the minimum wage has risen to the level of the wages demanded by the workers twelve years earlier). Kramer becomes interested in resurrecting the holiday when at the bagel shop, Frank Constanaa tells him how he created Festivus as an alternative holiday in response to the commercialization of Christmas.
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!
Frank Costanza's son, George, creates donation cards for a fake charity called The Human Fund (with the slogan "Money For People") in lieu of having to give office Christmas presents. When his boss, Mr Kruger, questions George about a $20,000 check he gave George to donate to the Human Fund as a corporate donation, George hastily concocts the excuse that he made up the Human Fund because he feared persecution for his beliefs, for not celebrating Christmas. Attempting to call his bluff, Kruger goes home with George to see Festivus in action.
Kramer eventually goes back on strike from his bagel-vendor job when his manager tells him he cannot have time off for his new-found religious holiday. Kramer is then seen on the street with a sign reading "Festivus yes! Bagels no!", and chanting to anyone passing the store "Hey! No bagel, no bagel, no bagel..."
Finally at Frank's house in Queens, Jerry, Elaine, Kramer and George gather to celebrate Festivus. George brings Kruger to prove Festivus is real.
The Festivus Pole
In the episode, though not in the original O'Keefe Family celebration, the tradition of Festivus begins with an aluminum pole. During Festivus, the Festivus Pole is displayed unadorned. The pole was chosen apparently in opposition to the commercialization of highly decorated Christmas trees, because it is "very low-maintenance", and also because the holiday's patron, Frank Costanza, finds tinsel "distracting". The basics of the Festivus pole are explained by Frank in two separate situations.
Cosmo Kramer: Is there a tree?
Frank Costanza: No, instead, there's a pole. It requires no decoration. I find tinsel distracting.
Frank Costanza: It's made from aluminium. Very high strength-to-weight ratio.
Mr. Kruger: I find your belief system fascinating.
When not being used, the Festivus Pole is stored in a crawlspace.
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 appeared to be meat loaf or spaghetti in a red sauce. The original holiday dinner in the O'Keefe household featured turkey or ham followed by a Pepperidge Farm cake decorated with M&M's, as described in detail in O'Keefe's The Real Festivus. In Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us by Allen Salkin, modern observances of Festivus tend to feature heavy drinking. In the Seinfeld episode, no alcohol is served, but George Constanza's boss, Mr. Kruger, drinks from a flask.
Airing of Grievances
The celebration of Festivus begins with Airing of Grievances, which takes place immediately after the Festivus dinner has been served. It consists of lashing out at others and the world about how one has been disappointed in the past year. Every household has its own traditions; in one house, the Airing of Grievances consisted of writing the grievances on the fridge in marker.
Frank Costanza: And at the Festivus dinner, you gather your family around, and tell them all the ways they have disappointed you over the past year!
Frank Costanza: I got a lot of problems with you people! And now, you're gonna hear about it. You, Kruger. My son tells me your company STINKS!
George Costanza: Oh, God.
Feats of Strength
The Feats of Strength is the final tradition observed in the celebration of Festivus. Traditionally, the head of the household selects one person at the Festivus celebration and challenges that person to a wrestling match. The person may decline if they have something else to do, such as pull a double shift at work. Tradition states that Festivus is not over until the head of the household is pinned in a wrestling match. 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 ran out of the coffee shop in a mad panic, implying he had bad experiences with the Feats of Strength in the past.
Jerry Seinfeld: And wasn't there a Feats of Strength that always ended up with you crying?
George Costanza: I can't take it anymore! I'm going to work! Are you happy now?!
Frank Costanza: I've brought one of the cassette tapes.
Frank Costanza (on a tape recorder): Read that poem.
George Costanza (on a tape recorder): I can't read it, I need my glasses.
Frank Costanza (on a tape recorder): You don't need glasses! You're just weak, weak!Estelle Costanza (on a tape recorder): Leave him alone!
Frank Costanza (on a tape recorder): All right, George. It's time for the Festivus Feats of Strength!
George Costanza: No! No! Turn it off! No feats of strength! I hate Festivus!
Frank Costanza: We had some good times.
Although it is not an official element of the holiday or its celebration, the phenomenon of the Festivus Miracle is mentioned twice in the original episode, both times occurring in the Costanza household, and both declared by Kramer.
Betting Shop Guy: Hello again, Miss Benes.
Elaine Benes: What are you doing here?
Betting Shop Guy: Damndest thing. Me and Charlie were calling to ask you out, and, uh, we got this bagel place.
Cosmo Kramer: I told them I was just about to see you. It's a Festivus Miracle!
Jerry Seinfeld: Gwen! How did you know I was here?
Gwen: Kramer told me!
Cosmo Kramer: Another Festivus Miracle!
From these examples, it can be inferred that Festivus miracles tend to be minor coincidences that are inconvenient for one of the involved parties (Elaine did not want to see the Betting Shop Guy, and two-faced Gwen mistakes Elaine as the "ugly girl" she has been hearing about).
On Youtube there are clips of people celebrating Festivus including the feats of strength and the airing of the grievences.
Last year my friend made me a festivus pole ornament to hang on the tree.
Have you ever heard of Festivus?