What many thought was an invention on the sitcom Seinfeld, the story of Festivus for the Rest of Us actually goes back further than that. Reader's Digest editor Dan O'Keefe invented the holiday in 1965 as a way to celebrate the anniversary of his first date with his wife. He was inspired in part by the Samuel Beckett play Krapp's Last Tape - in the play, the main character tapes himself speaking at different periods in his life. From this, a family tradition was born. O'Keefe's son, Daniel was a writer for Seinfeld and decided to bring his quirky family tradition to a national audience (see video on YouTube.com). Ever since the episode originally aired, the holiday has attracted quite a national following. Today, Festivus has a cult following throughout the United States, celebrated on December 23rd.
Why Festivus has become popular, no one really knows. Some suggest because it is a fun celebration, free from the boundaries of religion and commercialization, especially appealing to those of faith groups who do not have a celebration in December. To others, it is just a fun, quirky, nonsensical reason to party with friends and family.
In recent years, Festivus has taken on a life of its own. Some families have adopted December 23 as the date for their annual family reunion, when family and friends gather together for a feast and celebration, just for the fun of it.
As an ever-evolving phenomenon, many people put their own special twist on Festivus for the Rest of Us, but these are considered to be the main traditions:
The Festivus Pole – A long aluminum pole adorned with no decoration - a Christmas tree substitute unadorned. Seinfield's Costanza found "tinsel distracting."
The Airing of Grievances – During the Festivus dinner, the family members gather around and tell each other how they have disappointed each other over the last year, often recording it.
Feats of Strength - Originally a wrestling competition, the writer's of Seinfield changed it so that the head of the family tests his or her strength against another friend or family member. The challenge is given to a different person each year. Festivus is not over until the head of the family is pinned down.
Besides a DVD of Seinfeld, what would be an appropriate gift for someone that celebrates Festivus? Websites such as CafePress.com sell T-shirts for Festivus. Because Festivus is a holiday that many celebrate in resistance to what they see as the over-commercialization of Christmas, no one is obligated to give a gift. However, in the spirit of being gifty, gag gifts tend to be popular for this event. Gift exchange games, like Yankee Swaps can provide the entertainment for the event.
- December Holidays
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- Katherine Willis - Festivus for the Rest of Us
- Fooey to the World: Festivus Is Come
- Festivus Poles
- Washington Post - A Festivus for the Rest of Us