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Celebrating Festivus – A festival for the rest of us

Posted by mandyf on December 7, 2011

Each December the minds of many turn towards their annual celebration of Festivus. Like many holidays, the origins of Festivus have been forgotten and the meaning twisted into something different than was initially intended. Before you put up the Festivus pole this year, it would do well to look back on Festivus and remember the true meaning of the day.

Festivus is the brainchild of Frank Costanza. As he once related in a conversation with Cosmo Kramer, the inspiration for Festivus struck him like a bolt of lightning.

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!

The main componenets of Festivus are fairly simple. The key is remembering Festivus truly is for the rest of us. It is the holiday for the regular person sick of the commercialism that has overtaken nearly every other holiday on the calendar. It is the day to wipe the slate clean and be reborn and reinvigorated for yet another year of being beaten down by the man.

To start things off you need to set up your Festivus pole. The Festivus pole is the first major component of the holiday. It has to be aluminum as that has the best strength to weight ratio according to Frank. The Festivus pole is never decorated as that leaves too much room for commercialism to creep in and taint the sanctity of the symbol. Besides that a bare aluminum pole requires no watering, has no shedding needles, is easy to store, and requires no assembling or disassembling making it a perfect low maintenance choice.

The Festivus dinner should be equally low maintenance, something along the lines of spaghetti or meat loaf. A red sauce is optional for meatloaf but it does add a little something to the meal. Simple staple items should round out the meal like bread, maybe a salad, and dessert is a possibility, however it may get lost in the shuffle of the other Festivus activities.

While drinking alcohol was not a part of the original Festivus meal, it really couldn’t hurt. It makes the airing of grievances a bit more palatable. It makes family in general a bit more tolerable. It also encourages freer speech. Plan to make a strong ale, bourbon, rum, and wine available. It really does help.

At the beginning of the meal whomsoever is the head of the family begins the traditional “Airing of Grievances.” The airing of grievances should always begin with the phrase “I’ve got a lot of problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it.” The purpose of the airing of grievances is not to actually hurt anyone, it is a therapeutic way to let people know in great detail the many ways they let you down over the course of the year. While the person airing their grievances unburdens them self, the people being aired out learn their many shortcomings and have a laundry list of improvements they need to work towards before next Festivus.

After the airing of grievances and meal has passed the final element of Festivus is the “Feats of Strength.” The head of the family can choose anyone present at the table (Including the kids table because it is good to learn life isn’t fair as early as possible) to a contest of strength. It can be rather mundane like arm wrestling, but the true followers of Festivus engage in a wrestling match. The match is not over until the head of the family says so. Dirty fighting ie; hair pulling, eye poking/gouging, biting, kicking, use of foreign objects, and even groin stuff is allowed.

There is a feats of strength loophole which states that a chosen opponent may decline the challenge if he or she has something better to do. What constitutes better to do is solely at the discretion of the head of the family. Having to drop a deuce has traditionally been the best out as is anything involving the word “explosive” connected to any bodily function. Someone must accept the challenge however as Festivus is not over until the feats of strength has been completed.

At times a Festivus miracle is experienced although the nature of Festivus miracles is not what many consider good fortune. A typical Festivus miracle would be along the lines of wrongful incarceration, being dumped for something that isn’t your fault, being mugged, running into an ex and their gorgeous new spouse when you are alone and looking disgusting in worn out pit stained sweats or a similar occurrence. When encountered by such an event it is considered proper form to announce in a booming voice “It’s a Festivus miracle!”

In lieu of giving actual gifts it is acceptable to send cards to people announcing you have made a sizable donation in their name to any made up charity of your choice. The “Human Fund” whose motto is “Money for people” is a traditional favorite. If you get busted, simply shout “It’s a Festivus miracle!” and make some comment about it being a part of your spiritual beliefs and that usually keeps people too frightened to push further and be politically incorrect/insensitive.

While this has all been rather tongue in cheek based on the famous Seinfeld portrayals of Festivus, Festivus is an actual, but obscure holiday. The first Festivus was celebrated in February of 1966 by Daniel O’Keefe whose son went on to land a job as a writer on Seinfeld. Festivus was initially celebrated to mark the day Daniel had his first date with his future wife Deborah. So far as things like the airing of grievances go, they are real! The difference was that the O’Keefe family initially spoke them into a microphone and played the tapes for each other on Festivus rather than the modern stream of consciousness delivery used today.


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