Festivus, the holiday “for the rest of us,” has its origins in the Seinfeld episode “The Strike,” and was actually created by Seinfeld writer Daniel O’Keefe’s father as a tradition for his family. The made-up holiday (celebrated December 23 as an alternative to Christmas, and created by George Costanza’s father Frank) has since taken on a life of its own, with Festivus celebrations cropping up around the world, and companies cashing in by producing their very own Festivus products. If you’d like to observe Festivus yourself, or just learn about its silly traditions, read on for a guide to how to celebrate Festivus.
Get a Festivus pole.
Forget Christmas trees or Hanukkah menorahs; for Festivus, it’s all about the unadorned aluminum pole. As Frank Costanza explains, “It requires no decoration. I find tinsel distracting.” Plus, he notes that aluminum has a “very high strength-to-weight ratio.” The Wagner Companies of Milwaukee produce high-quality Festivus poles that you can buy online, in various sizes, or you can probably just find your own at a scrap yard.
- Festivus Poles (Manufacturer's Site)
Air your grievances.
Once the family has gathered for Festivus dinner, it’s time for the airing of grievances, in which family members tell each other how they’ve been let down over the past year. For Frank Costanza, who seems to have no problem airing his grievances at all times, this is a chance to really let loose, but other Festivus celebrants may want to be a bit more gentle with their own loved ones.
Perform feats of strength.
After dinner come the feats of strength, in which the head of the household must be pinned in a wrestling match. For poor George Costanza, the feats were a source of childhood trauma and tears, but others (such as the couple from this Flickr stream) take them more lightly, and engage in various forms of roughhousing and horseplay. Of course, after the airing of grievances, this might be a good way to get out your pent-up aggression.
Witness Festivus miracles.
It wouldn’t be a winter holiday without miracles. On Seinfeld, the Festivus miracles were decidedly mundane and not exactly welcome, but in real life we could consider the growing popularity of Festivus itself a bit of a miracle. The reunion of the Seinfeld cast on Curb Your Enthusiasm in 2009 didn’t occur during Festivus, but it was pretty miraculous nonetheless.
Spread the word.
Are your friends unaware of Festivus, or have they forgotten about this most wonderful time of year? Why not send out Festivus cards to remind them of the joys of the holiday? Alternately, you can print out forms for the airing of grievances from the folks at The Wagner Companies, and be certain to make your complaints known to relatives far and wide.
Read all about it.
Seinfeld writer Daniel O’Keefe, who based Festivus on traditions created by his own father, wrote a book about the holiday’s origins, The Real Festivus, that’s a combination of comedic memoir and pop-culture primer. More on the holiday can be found in Allen Salkin’s Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us, which chronicles the spread of Festivus and its impact on pop culture.
See how it all began.
Just like watching a movie about the birth of Jesus on Christmas, revisiting the Seinfeld episode “The Strike” on Festivus can be a transformative experience. Also, it’s really funny, and features George’s infamous fake charity The Human Fund, plus the end of Kramer’s 12-year strike on H&H Bagels. It’s available on DVD along with the rest of the episodes from Seinfeld’s ninth and final season.
- Seinfeld Season 9 (Compare Prices)