Festivus: Wikis


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Frank Costanza (Jerry Stiller), left, holds his family's Festivus pole while talking to Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards) and Jerry Seinfeld.
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. 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 "Festivus for the rest of us," a saying taken from the O'Keefe family traditions and popularized in the Seinfeld episode to describe Festivus as "another way" to celebrate the season without participating in its pressures and commercialism.



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,[2] it is now celebrated on December 23, as depicted on the December 18, 1997 Seinfeld episode "The Strike."[1] According to O'Keefe, the name Festivus "just popped into my head."[2]

Traditional practices

The holiday, as portrayed in the Seinfeld episode and now celebrated by many,[2] 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.[3]

Some people, influenced or inspired by Seinfeld,[2] 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.[4]

Summary of the Seinfeld episode and the holiday's rituals

Festivus is introduced in the Seinfeld episode 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 doll."
Frank Costanza: "She was."[5]

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 US $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..."[5]

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. While not part of the original O'Keefe family celebration, Daniel O'Keefe credits fellow "Seinfeld" writer Jeff Schaffer with introducing the concept of the aluminum pole. 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."
Frank Costanza: "It's made from aluminum. Very high strength-to-weight ratio."

When not being used, the aluminum 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.[4] The person may decline if they have something else to do, such as pull a double shift at work. 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 show's portrayal of a New York 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

Another growing tradition, although not used by all celebrants of the holiday, is the phenomenon of the Festivus Miracle. Mentioned twice in the original episode, the miracles were declared by Cosmo Kramer 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: "Damndest 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

Festivus (with long "i," festīvus) is a Latin word, but not the name of a festival: in one reference it is said to mean "festive."[6] A scholarly work on the etymology of the word by Dr. Brian A. Krostenko, summarized in Salkin's book, concludes that in ancient Rome the word evolved, referring at times to the way the common folk would misbehave on official religious holidays and at other times to a certain snooty attitude amongst the higher classes. The English word festive derives from festīvus, which in turn derives from festus "joyous; holiday, feast day."[7][8]

In the O'Keefe tradition, the holiday would take place in response to family tension, "any time from December to May."[9] 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.[9]

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.[10]

Festivus in popular culture

"Happy Festivus" embroidery on a yarmulke.

See also


  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ a b c d e 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. 
  3. ^ "Origins of Festivus". Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us. http://www.festivusbook.com/historyoffestivus. Retrieved 2007-11-02. 
  4. ^ a b "Festivus Website". Allen Salkin. http://www.festivusbook.com/. 
  5. ^ a b "The Strike". Seinfeld Scripts. http://www.seinfeldscripts.com/TheStrike.htm. Retrieved 2006-12-25. 
  6. ^ "festivus". Lewis & Short Latin Dictionary. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0059%3Aentry%3D%2318041. Retrieved 2007-12-27. 
  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. http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=365353. Retrieved 2006-12-25. 
  9. ^ a b Allen Salkin (2005). Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of us. ISBN 0-446-69674-9. 
  10. ^ O'Keefe (1982). Stolen Lightning: A Social Theory of Magic. ISBN 0-8264-0059-0. 
  11. ^ "Flavor Graveyard". Ben & Jerry. http://www.benjerry.com/our_products/flavor_graveyard. Retrieved 2006-12-25. 
  12. ^ "Press Release". Ben & Jerry. http://www.benjerry.com/company/media-center/press/festivus1127.html. Retrieved 2009-12-23. 
  13. ^ Matte, Tom; Jeff Seidel (2004). Tales from the Baltimore Ravens Sideline. ISBN 1-582-61754-6. 
  14. ^ "Gov. Festivus!". madison.com. http://www.madison.com/archives/read.php?ref=/tct/2005/12/23/0512230446.php. Retrieved 2006-12-25. 
  15. ^ "Governor Doyle's Festivus Pole". Wisconsin Historical Society. http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/museum/artifacts/archives/003178.asp. Retrieved 2007-12-30. 
  16. ^ "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. 
  17. ^ "Festivus Pole Proposed After Wisconsin City Displays Nativity". FOXNews.com. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,317090,00.html. Retrieved 2007-12-30. 
  18. ^ David Mercer, Capitol Festivus pole goes up, and gripes begin Chicago Tribune, December 24, 2008
  19. ^ Steve Schmadeke, Festivus display at Illinois Capitol Chicago Tribune, December 24, 2008
  20. ^ Petula Dvorak, [1] Washington Post, December 18, 2008

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also festivus


Proper noun




  1. A nonce nondenominational holiday featured in a Seinfeld episode, now celebrated (seriously or otherwise) by a number of people.


  • 2006, Boston Globe Article- “Yes, Virginia, there is a Festivus[1]
    "Festivus isn't about any specific religion," Doyle said, stating what seemed both obvious and reassuring. "It's inclusive. And funny."
  • 2005, Allen Salkin, Gabi Payn (Illustrator) “Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us”

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