Other than Christmas, there are many other traditional holidays for this time of the year. Other than the usual staples of Hanukkah and Kwanza, there is another holiday that has caught on year after year. Perhaps it says something that this holiday was invented on a TV show, and perhaps it says something else that it is a legitimate alternative to Christmas in some circles. Nonetheless, today is the latest honoring of Festivus, a holiday for families and for TV audiences to honor.
Festivus is one of the last gifts that Seinfeld gave to the world at large. In a 1997 Christmas episode of Seinfeld, the term Festivus was coined as a holiday celebrated by the Costanza family. George Constanza and his father Frank introduced Festivus to Seinfeld and his gang, and the rest of American has been joining in since.
Festivus was the brainchild of the O’Keefe family, going back to 1966. Dan O’Keefe created Festivus for his family, a holiday held every December 23 in which Christmas is celebrated in the most non-commercial fashion.
Instead of a tree, Festivus is symbolized by a non-decorative pole. Instead of gifts, Festivus families give each other the “airing of grievances.” Instead of a big dinner, Festivus families eat the likes of meat loaf and spaghetti. And instead of family hugs and togetherness, Festivus families compete against each other in “feats of strength.”
Festivus was limited to the O’Keefe family until Dan O’Keefe’s son, Daniel, became a writer for Seinfeld. Late in Seinfeld’s time, Dan O’Keefe wrote the 1997 Christmas episode “The Strike” in which he took his family’s Festivus tradition and gave it to the Costanza family.
Since that time, Festivus has become one of the most famous parts of Seinfeld lore. Over the years, it has begun to be part of Christmas lore, and not just for Seinfeld viewers.
Over the years, Seinfeld was famous for being a show about nothing, which eschewed the usual sitcom cliches and traditions to break new ground. As such, Festivus was popular for the same reason, in that it went past Christmas TV show cliches to do something different for a holiday episode.
Festivus is therefore considered an alternative to the glitz, glamour, commercialization and sentiment of Christmas in real life, just as on the show.
Therefore, each December 23 brings many snarky families with a unique sense of humor together, to honor Festivus traditions as pinned down by the O’Keefes and the Constanzas.
Progressive Politics Examiner- “Happy Festivus” www.examiner.com/x-243-Progressive-Politics-Examiner~y2008m12d23-Happy-Festivus
New York Times- “Fooey to the World: Festivus Is Come” www.cbrsd.org/nessacus/festivus/nytimes/19FEST.html