(Photo: Daquella Manera, Creative Commons. Location: Washington DC)
By Wendy Tremayne
If the standard selection of holidays are failing to attract the pixie dust they summoned when you were an impressionable tot, perhaps it’s time to join thousands of people around the world in the celebration of Festivus, “a holiday for the rest of us”. The perks include a consumer free, secular celebration with the likelihood of clearing the slate between friends and family.
Festivus arrived into most of our awareness with the TV show Seinfeld. It was there that Daniel O’Keefe, a writer for the show wrote about the made-up celebration by George Costanza’s dad, Frank. In the TV version, Frank Coztanza goes to battle with a man over the last remaining doll of it’s kind in the department store. The battle ends when the two men destroy the doll in a tug of war. Frank expressed his disappointment by saying, “I realized there had to be another way.” With a spark of inspiration he announced the start of “Festivus, a celebration for the rest of us”.
In real life, it was Daniel O’Keefe’s father who celebrated Festivus with the O’Keefe family in the 1970’s as a way of opting out of the consumer frenzy the holidays had spawned. Papa O’Keefe was particularly interested in sociology and the way that people formed new cults. The holiday was developed while he was researching a book he authored titled, Stolen Lightning: The Social Theory of Magic. The O’Keefe celebration included a few rituals of their own design, many of which made it into the Seinfeld version of the holiday now celebrated around the world.
Here is a first timers guide to creating your own Festivus holiday celebration.
(Photo: M. Keefe, Creative Commons)
Festivus Date: December 23rd
Holiday Slogan: Festivus for the rest of us!
Holiday Greeting: “Happy Festivus”
Gift Giving: None
Clips from the Original Episode: Seinfeld – “The Festivus”
The Festivus pole is an aluminum pole (chosen for excellent strength to weight ratio) mounted anywhere, undecorated. In the Festivus episode of Seinfeld, George indicated that the aluminum pole is to be left unadorned when he said, “I find tinsel distracting.”
Feats of strength are engaged in throughout the night and occur between guests and host in the form of wrestling matches. The challenger must pin the host to the ground or be temporarily sent away from the clan in a kind of “time out.” Some less conventional adherents have replaced the wrestling match with physical activities such as hula-hooping, thumb and leg wrestling.
Airing of grievances is another Festivus ritual in which guests tell one other what bugs them about each other.
- A Pepperidege Farm cake adorned with M&Ms
In 2000 and 2001 Ben and Jerry’s carried an ice cream flavor called Festivus: A Holiday for the Rest of Us. It’s contents included brown sugar and cinnamon ice cream loaded with gingerbread cookies and a ginger caramel swirl.
You need not feel isolated from holiday merriment because you chose an obscure and lesser-known way to celebrate. To connect to the Festivus community there’s the Festivus web site with movies, books, songs and more.
While some stick to Festivus orthodoxy, most who celebrate the holiday make it their own with a few personal touches. If your looking for a few extras, Katherine Willis offers free downloadable Festivus greeting card sayings, airing of grievances worksheet and a feats of strength challenge card. Festivus wine is also available.
Perhaps it’s time to add your unique fingerprint? Enter your ideas and inspirations into comments field and have a “Happy Festivus.”
About the Author:
Wendy Tremayne is an event producer, conceptual artist, and yoga teacher. One of her projects, Swap-O-Rama-Rama, is a community clothing swap and series of DIY workshops that she created as an alternative to consumerism. Wendy lives in Truth or Consequences, N.M., where she is co-creating an off-grid B&B. Find out more on the Holy Scrap Hot Springs blog. Learn more about Wendy at gaiatreehouse.com.