Festivus is a holiday that first got its start on the critically acclaimed sitcom, Seinfeld. Its first appearance was in the 1997 episode entitled “The Strike,” which aired on NBC on December 18th, 1997. Today, it is regarded as a secular holiday that serves as an alternative to the commercialization of Christmas.
Festivus was created by the family of Seinfeld screenwriter Dan O’Keefe in 1966. It was designed as a ‘non-holiday’ by the family and could randomly take place anytime from December to May. The very first one took place in February of 1966 when Dan O’Keefe used it to celebrate the first date with his future wife.
However, it wouldn’t enter pop culture consciousness until December of 1997 when his son, Daniel O’Keefe, wrote it into the Seinfeld episode. Since it was celebrated on December 23rd during that episode, it is commonly celebrated on that day by people around the world.
Observances And Customs
During the Seinfeld episode, several elements were in place during the characters’ Festivus celebration, and these elements are the ones that are usually observed by people celebrating the holiday. These include:
The Holiday Pole – As sort of an antithesis to the Christmas tree, the pole is an unadorned aluminum pole that is usually used as the centerpiece of the dinner celebration. This device wasn’t a part of the original O’Keefe family tradition but was an invention by Seinfeld writer Jeff Schaffer.
The Dinner – This holiday dinner was another element displayed during the episode. On the show, the traditional dinner was meatloaf and spaghetti, but Dan O’Keefe said the original holiday dinner featured a turkey or a ham.
Airing Of Grievances – A key element of the celebration is the “Airing Of Grievances.” This is done immediately after the holiday dinner has been served and involves all of the family members stating, one at a time, what they don’t like about each other and what disappointed them during the previous year.
Feats Of Strength – Another element of this holiday, as depicted on the episode, is the “Feats of Strength challenge.” Immediately following the dinner, the head of the household challenges one of the guests at the table to a wrestling match. According to tradition, the holiday isn’t over until the head of the household is pinned in a wrestling match.
Miracles – The last element of this tradition is the exclamation of miracles. These miracles can be anything and are usually proclaimed at the dinner table. If you search for it on Google, you are taken to a page with a metal pole down the left side and with the exclamation: “It’s a Festivus Miracle!!” before the search results counter.
Other Traditions – Although not depicted in the original show, Dan O’Keefe has been quoted as saying that in his family’s original tradition, the holiday pole was not used but a bag containing a clock was used in its place. After the celebration, the clock was then immediately hung. The purpose of this is not known to Mr. O’Keefe and it remains a mystery to this day.
Although Festivus originally started as a way to poke fun at the traditional holidays and as a way to relieve the pressure of family get-togethers, today it has blossomed into a fun holiday for the entire family that can be used both as an alternative or to supplement the traditional holidays.