By Marie DeFreitas
As the holiday season comes full throttle you may have heard of Festivus, a festival for the rest of us. But what exactly is this obscure holiday, and where on earth did it come from?
Drawing national attention from the hit 90’s sitcom Seinfeld, Festivus is supposedly invented by the character of Frank Costanza, (Jerry Stiller) on the show. In an episode from Season 9 that aired back in 1997 titled “The Strike”, Frank, George Costanza’s father, decides to essentially boycott Christmas and it;s materialism and commercialization, in favour of his own unique tradition. Thus inventing the Festivus holiday.
In order to “get a leg up on Christmas,” Frank decides Festivus will be celebrated on the 23rd of December. The only decoration, an aluminum pole in the living room, which “requires no decorations.” as stated by Frank. Next there is a Festivus meal, and then participants will air their grievances to each other, a chance to tell others how they have disappointed you over the last year. After this, celebrants can engage in feats of strength, such as wrestling.
Although Festivus gained it’s true popularity from the sitcom, it’s origins go back a bit farther. A writer on the show, Dan O’Keefe’s father actually invented Festivus back in 1976 when O’Keefe was only eight years old. O’Keefe even grew up celebrating Festivus, complete with all the traditions, except for the Festivus pole.
According to an interview with Mother Jones however, O’Keefe was reluctant to share his family tradition as part of the show. When other writers on the show found out about the tradition though, they decided it just had to be on the show. They forced O’Keefe to work Festivus into an episode.
O’Keefe eventually agreed and added it into the show via the Frank Costanza character. The tagline of the holiday “a festival for the rest of us,” was actually a part of the O’Keefe family tradition, according to an interview with the Washington Post , later written about by Time Magazine. O”keefe said it initially referred “to those remaining after the death of my father’s mother, and then coming to mean in general a forward-looking focus on life and the living, i.e. ‘Let the dead bury the dead’. ”
The festival is now celebrated nationwide, and particularly popular on the internet via Seinfeld fans. O’Keefe later wrote about the festival and its origins in a book titled The Real Festivus, according to Time Magazine.