Festivus Pole
Type Seasonal
Significance A holiday celebrated by those frustrated with the commercialism and pressure of other December holidays.
Date December 23
Celebrations Airing of Grievances, Feats of Strength, the aluminum pole, Festivus miracles.

Festivus is a secular holiday celebrated on December 23 as a way to celebrate the holiday season without participating in its pressures and commercialism.[1] It was created by writer Dan O'Keefe and introduced into popular culture by his son Daniel, a screenwriter for the TV show Seinfeld,[1][2] as part of a comical storyline on the show. The holiday's celebration, as shown on Seinfeld, includes an unadorned aluminum "Festivus pole", practices such as the "Airing of Grievances" and "Feats of Strength", and the labeling of easily explainable events as "Festivus miracles". Celebrants of the holiday sometimes refer to it as "a Festivus for the rest of us", a saying taken from the O'Keefe family traditions and popularized in the Seinfeld episode to describe Festivus' non-commercial aspect.



Although the original Festivus took place in February 1966, as a celebration of the elder O'Keefe's first date with his future wife, Deborah,[1] it is now celebrated on December 23, as depicted on the December 18, 1997 Seinfeld episode, "The Strike".[2] According to O'Keefe, the name Festivus "just popped into my head".[1]

Traditional practices

The holiday, as portrayed in the Seinfeld episode,[1][3] includes practices such as the "Airing of Grievances", which occurs during the Festivus meal and in which each person tells everyone else all the ways they have disappointed him or her over the past year. After the meal the "Feats of Strength" are performed, involving wrestling the head of the household to the floor, with the holiday ending only if the head of the household is actually pinned.

The original holiday featured more peculiar practices, as detailed in the younger Daniel O'Keefe's book The Real Festivus. The book 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.[4]

Some people, influenced or inspired by Seinfeld,[1] now celebrate the holiday in varying degrees of seriousness; the beginning of the spread of Festivus is chronicled in the 2005 book Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us by Allen Salkin.[5]

Summary of the Seinfeld episode and the holiday's rituals

Festivus is introduced in the Seinfeld episode "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 Costanza 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!"
Kramer: "That must have been some kind of doll."
Frank Costanza: "She was."[6]

Frank Costanza's son, George (Jason Alexander), 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 (Daniel von Bargen), 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, but celebrating Festivus. 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 holiday. Kramer is then seen on the sidewalk picketing H&H Bagels, carrying a sign reading "Festivus yes! Bagels no!" and chanting to anyone passing the store: "Hey! No bagel, no bagel, no bagel..."[6]

Finally at Frank's house in Queens, New York, Jerry, Elaine, Kramer, and George gather to celebrate Festivus. George brings Kruger to prove to him that Festivus is real.

Festivus pole

In the episode, the tradition of Festivus begins with an aluminum pole. Daniel O'Keefe credits fellow Seinfeld writer Jeff Schaffer with introducing the concept, which was not part of the original O'Keefe family celebration. During Festivus, the pole is displayed unadorned. The basics of the Festivus pole are explained by Frank in two separate situations:

Cosmo Kramer: "And is there a tree?"
Frank Costanza: "No, instead, there's a pole. It requires no decoration. I find tinsel distracting ... [I]t's made from aluminum. Very high strength-to-weight ratio."

When not being used, the pole is stored in the Costanzas' crawl space.

Festivus dinner

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 was shown to be some sort of meatloaf. 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 the Seinfeld episode no alcohol is served at the dinner, but George Costanza's boss, Mr. Kruger, drinks from a hip flask.

Airing of Grievances

The celebration of Festivus begins with the "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.

From the Seinfeld episode:

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: "The tradition of Festivus begins with the Airing of Grievances. 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! You couldn't smooth a silk sheet if you had a hot date with a babe...I lost my train of thought."

Feats of Strength

The Feats of Strength is the final tradition observed in the celebration of Festivus, celebrated immediately following (or in the case of "The Strike", during) the Festivus dinner. The head of the household selects one person at the Festivus celebration and challenges that person to a wrestling match.[5] Evidently, the person may decline if they have something else to do, as Kramer did in the episode. 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 Costanza ran out of the coffee shop in a mad panic, implying he had bad experiences with the Feats of Strength in the past. What the Feats of Strength entailed was revealed at the very end of the episode, when it actually took place. Failing to pin the head of the household results in Festivus continuing until such requirement is met.

From the Seinfeld episode:

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): (shouts) "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."

Festivus miracles

Cosmo Kramer twice declares a Festivus Miracle during the Festivus celebration in the Costanza household.

Miracle #1;

Sleazy Guy: "Hello again, Miss Benes."
Elaine Benes: "What are you doing here?"
Sleazy Guy: "Damnedest 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!"

Miracle #2;

Gwen: "Jerry!"
Jerry Seinfeld: "Gwen! How did you know I was here?"
Gwen: "Kramer told me!"
Cosmo Kramer: "Another Festivus Miracle!"
Jerry Seinfeld: (gives Kramer a murderous glare)

Etymology and origin

The word Festivus in this sense was made up because it sounded funny to Dan O'Keefe. The English word "festive" derives from Latin "festivus", which in turn derives from festus "joyous; holiday, feast day".[7][8][9]

In the original O'Keefe tradition, the holiday would take place in response to family tension, "any time from December to May".[10] The phrase "A Festivus for the rest of us" also derived from an O'Keefe family event, the death of the elder O'Keefe's mother.[10]

The elder O'Keefe wrote a book, Stolen Lightning: The Social Theory of Magic (1982), that deals with idiosyncratic ritual and its social significance, a theme relevant to Festivus tradition.[11]

Festivus in popular culture

"Happy Festivus" embroidery on a yarmulke.
  • "Festivus" was a term used by the 2000 Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League (NFL) and their fans to denote the NFL Playoffs. During the season, Ravens head coach Brian Billick, wanting his players to focus on every game, banned the word "playoffs". Players substituted the term "festivus" for playoffs and "Festivus Maximus" for the Super Bowl. The Ravens eventually won the 2001 Festivus Maximus, Super Bowl XXXV.[14]
  • In 2005, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle was declared "Governor Festivus" and during the holiday season displayed a Festivus Pole in the family room of the Executive Residence in Madison, Wisconsin.[15] Governor Doyle's 2005 Festivus Pole is now part of the collection of the Wisconsin Historical Museum.[16]
  • In 2007, a Wisconsin man requested permission to erect a Festivus pole next to Green Bay City Hall's nativity scene as a response to public religious and secular displays.[17][18]
  • In 2007, the first Festivus Pole Lot opened [19] in downtown Milwaukee.
  • In 2008 and 2009, a Festivus pole was erected in the rotunda of the Illinois Capitol building located in Springfield, Illinois. In 2008, the handle of a pool cleaner was erected by 18 year old student, Mike Tennenhouse, who along with Governor Rod Blagojevich began "airing grievances" on behalf of the people of Illinois.[20][21] The 2009 display was an unadorned aluminum pole.
  • In 2008 the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C. held an "airing of grievances" on bulletin boards attached to a kiosk. These grievances were then aired by a town crier in a jester hat the following weekend.[22]
  • In 2010 an inmate at the Theo Lacy jail in Santa Ana, CA received Kosher meals for his Festivus "faith". Malcolm King was given non-salami meals for two months while the county was getting the order thrown out, arguing that kosher meals and religious observances were not a part of Festivus.[23] The issue became moot on October 5, 2010, when King was released from county jail and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.[24][25]
  • In 2010 a CNN story featuring Jerry Stiller detailed the increasing popularity of the holiday, including US Representative Eric Cantor's Festivus fundraiser.[26]
  • In 2010 the Christian Science Monitor, in an article entitled "Festivus becomes worldwide holiday," reported that Festivus was a top trend on Twitter.[27]
  • The punk rock band Titus Andronicus named their debut album after "The Airing of Grievances."
  • Connecticut College hosts a Festivus holiday every year in which each residence hall hosts its own party culminating in a dance in the student center. [28]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Salkin, Allen (2004-12-19). "Fooey to the World: Festivus Is Come". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/19/fashion/19FEST.html?pagewanted=all&position=. Retrieved 2008-01-09. 
  2. ^ a b "Festivus for the rest of us". LJWorld. http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2005/dec/18/festivus_rest_us/?christmas_holidays=. Retrieved 2006-12-25. 
  3. ^ Ravitz, Jessica. "Seinfeld' over, but Festivus keeps giving". CNN.com. http://edition.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/12/23/festivus.holiday/index.html. Retrieved 2010-04-09. 
  4. ^ "Origins of Festivus". Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us. http://www.festivusbook.com/historyoffestivus. Retrieved 2007-11-02. 
  5. ^ a b "Festivus Website". Allen Salkin. http://www.festivusbook.com/. 
  6. ^ a b "The Strike". Seinfeld Scripts. http://www.seinfeldscripts.com/TheStrike.htm. Retrieved 2006-12-25. 
  7. ^ "festus". Words. http://www.archives.nd.edu/cgi-bin/words.exe?festus. Retrieved 2007-12-27. 
  8. ^ "Our day, our way". Journal Sentinel Online. Archived from the original on 2006-12-17. http://web.archive.org/web/20061217110536/http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=365353. Retrieved 2006-12-25. 
  9. ^ "Dictionary Entry: Fest-/Festivus", Latin Dictionary and Grammar Aid, University of Notre Dame
  10. ^ a b Allen Salkin (2005). Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of us. ISBN 0-446-69674-9. 
  11. ^ O'Keefe (1982). Stolen Lightning: A Social Theory of Magic. ISBN 0-8264-0059-0. 
  12. ^ "Flavor Graveyard". Ben & Jerry. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. http://web.archive.org/web/20070927222419/http://www.benjerry.com/our_products/flavor_graveyard. Retrieved 2006-12-25. 
  13. ^ "Press Release". Ben & Jerry. http://www.benjerry.com/company/media-center/press/festivus1127.html. Retrieved 2009-12-23. 
  14. ^ Matte, Tom; Jeff Seidel (2004). Tales from the Baltimore Ravens Sideline. ISBN 1-582-61754-6. 
  15. ^ "Gov. Festivus!". madison.com. http://www.madison.com/archives/read.php?ref=/tct/2005/12/23/0512230446.php. Retrieved 2006-12-25. 
  16. ^ "Governor Doyle's Festivus Pole". Wisconsin Historical Society. http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/museum/artifacts/archives/003178.asp. Retrieved 2007-12-30. 
  17. ^ "Green Bay Festivus pole". 236.com. http://www.236.com/blog/w/joseph_minton_amann_and_tom_breuer/a_festivus_for_the_rest_of_us_3063.php. Retrieved 2007-12-22. 
  18. ^ "Festivus Pole Proposed After Wisconsin City Displays Nativity". FOXNews.com. 2007-12-17. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,317090,00.html. Retrieved 2007-12-30. 
  19. ^ Festivus Pole Lot in Milwaukee
  20. ^ David Mercer, Capitol Festivus pole goes up, and gripes begin Chicago Tribune, December 24, 2008
  21. ^ Steve Schmadeke, Festivus display at Illinois Capitol Chicago Tribune, December 24, 2008
  22. ^ Petula Dvorak, [1] Washington Post, December 18, 2008
  23. ^ Meredith Jessup, [2] The Blaze,December 13, 2010
  24. ^ "Calif. Judge OK’d Seinfeld’s ‘Festivus’ as Legitimate Religion, Ordered Special Meals for Inmate". CBS 8 San Diego. December 14, 2010. http://www.abajournal.com/weekly/article/calif._judge_okd_seinfelds_festivus_as_legitimate_religion_ordered_special_?utm_source=maestro&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weekly_email. Retrieved 2010-12-06. 
  25. ^ "Festivus for the rest of us, O.C. Jail style". CBS 8 San Diego. December 10, 2010. http://www.ocregister.com/news/around-279819-festivus-once.html. Retrieved 2010-12-17. 
  26. ^ "Festivus for the rest of Us! Jerry Stiller on Fake holiday's real popularity". CNN. December 23, 2010. http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2010/12/23/exp.am.stiller.festivus.cnn?hpt=C2. Retrieved 2010-12-. 
  27. ^ "Festivus becomes worldwide holiday. Break out the Festivus pole!". Christian Science Monitor. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-News/2010/1223/Festivus-becomes-worldwide-holiday.-Break-out-the-Festivus-pole!-video. Retrieved 2010-12-. 
  28. ^ "Traditions: Connecticut College"

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Festivus — noun A nonce nondenominational holiday featured in a episode, now celebrated (seriously or otherwise) by a number of people. Festivus isnt about any specific religion, Doyle said, stating what seemed both obvious and reassuring. Its inclusive.… …   Wiktionary

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