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Oh Festivus

December 20, 2009


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.” (from the Seinfeld episode, “The Strike,” December 18, 1997)


Twelve years after the airing of the Seinfeld classic, “The Strike,” there is still a sanctuary in the world out there. If you’re tired of fighting with so many others in long lines at the mall or the local Walmart to find that obscure but desperately-needed Zhu Zhu pet and then find out, after hours of searching, that it’s sold out. If you’re worn out, searching on the Internet, first to see what a Zhu Zhu pet is, then realizing there is no way you’ll get one in time for the holidays….and then you wonder and wonder, “how did it ever get this way?” You ask yourself, “Isn’t there a holiday somewhere out there that doesn’t involve toys or gifts or celebrations?”

            Yes, people, if you seek it, it will come. Just go to or or search in that modern-day-encyclopedia-Brittanica (without the brittanica) called Wikipedia ( and you will find solace. Yes, the holiday of Festivus is growing in popularity, more every year since Seinfeld went off the air and then played endlessly on reruns everywhere. Festivus has a book written all about it (Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us, Allen Salkine) that illuminates and sanctifies this glorious time of year in which all of your grievances can finally be aired.

            Festivus, if you are one of those anti-Seinfeld-ites, is a secular holiday celebrated on December 23rd, created by writer Dan O’Keefe and introduced by scriptwriter and son, Daniel, on December 18, 1997 in the episode, “The Strike.” According to father O’Keefe, the name Festivus “just popped into my head,” (, in February, 1965, as a celebration of his first date with his future wife, Deborah.

            As written on Seinfeld, the holiday includes such sacred practices as the “Airing of Grievances,” which occurs during the Festivus meal, a time when each participant is expected to tell everyone else all the ways the people at the table have disappointed him or her over the past year (kind of like a reverse atonement.) After the meal, “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.

            Of course, the original holiday according to father Dan O’Keefe in his landmark book, The Real Festivus, features more “peculiar” practices, including the traditional raising of the Festivus pole, available for purchase at These Festivus poles are made of aluminum, extruded alloy, milled finish, 1-1/2” schedule 40 pipe size, and offered in two sizes, a 6-foot floor model (only $39 plus shipping,) and a 2-foot-8-inch table top model (only $31 plus shipping.) These poles are, according to the website, “collapsible for easy storage for your crawlspace,” 100% recyclable, and incredibly, 100% domestically produced and manufactured.

            Take that, China. There are many high quality goods still manufactured in the good old USA.

            Myths about Festivus? No, we are not expected to give donations to fake charities as demonstrated in the Seinfeld episode when George Kostanza created a fake charity called the Human Fund (with its slogan, “Money for People”) rather than giving real office Christmas presents. After George’s boss, Mr. Kruger, had second thoughts about his $20,000 corporate donation to the Human Fund, George admitted he concocted the Human Fund because he feared persecution because he celebrated Festivus.

            And no, Festivus does not condone going on strike for 12 years against your employer (in this case, Kramer at H&H Bagels,) and then returning to work and wanting time off to celebrate Festivus and going back on strike when the boss says no. And in no way, is carrying a sign reading “Festivus yes! Bagels no!” acceptable behavior during the holiday. But yes, there are Festivus miracles as in this scene from Seinfeld:

            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!”

            Yes, the Festivus holiday is heart-warming, as related in the Festivus Miracle true-story in 2000 when Brian Billick, coach of the Baltimore Ravens, banned his players from using the word, “playoffs,” during the season so they could focus on each game played and not look ahead. So the players substituted the term “festivus” for playoffs and “Festivus Maximus” for the Super Bowl, which may have helped them actually win the Festivus Maximus that year, which was truly a Festivus miracle.

            Or how about when students Mike and Matt Tennenhouse erected a Festivus pole (the handle of a pool cleaner) in the rotunda of the Illinois Capitol building in 2008, as they were simply “airing grievances” on behalf of the people of Illinois against Governor Rod Blagojevich. This may have been the final straw that pushed the state to eventually impeach the sleazy governor, which was another Festivus miracle, indeed!

            And I think that is the crux of the greatness of the holiday. Instead of standing in line and spending hundreds of dollars in crappy economic times on useless gifts for people who don’t really want them anyways; why not air your grievances instead? And that’s what I just plan on doing during this time of “happy holidays” Hanukkah (or Chanukkah), Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

            Here is my top ten 2009 Grievance List in no particular order:

            10. Hey, what about those Detroit Lions, this year improving to two big wins instead of 0?

            9. Do we have to get more doses of Kwame Kilpatrick? I thought that guy had floated away in the last Thanksgiving Parade, stuffed in the Soupy Sales balloon. (Naw, that was Balloon Boy, after his dad was humiliated by the public ridicule and wanted to dump his son once and for all.)

            8. This Senate health care bill, loaded with 2074 pages of legalese, wasted money, new rules and regulations, paybacks to states like Nebraska to get Senator Nelson’s vote,  kickbacks to drug companies, new taxes and everything but logical cost reductions like state-to-state competition and tort reform. This bill can give you heart palpitations, acid reflux, and need for psychological counseling, all of which are out of network in my 39% increased 2010 health insurance plan.  

            7. It was bad enough to read before about the sainted athlete of the decade, Tiger Woods, but it’s now even worse to hear him catcalled and roasted as if he were the second coming of the devil. Frank Rich reminds us that Fortune Magazine named Enron America’s Most Innovative Company 6 years in a row. This obsession to deify and then crucify celebrities, companies, politicians, and athletes is downright sickening.

            6. By the way, I haven’t heard about Michael Jackson for an hour and a half (yes, he’s in every magazine, newspaper, and website’s 2009 reviews and best-of-worst-of-top-makers-etc-etc.)

            5. Why-oh-why do I have to worry about global warming when even worried-about-warming and scientifically astute professor Bernd Heinrich (“Clear-Cutting the Truth about Trees,” New York Times, Dec. 19, 2009) calls the Kyoto Protocol “horrifying” and writes that carbon offsets and “cap-and-trade” systems create “huge economic pressure for ecocide?”

            4. What’s a Zhu Zhu pet anyways? I still have no clue.

            3. People who complain about everything including the media, Zhu Zhu pets, and health care “reform” (woops; can I take this one back?)

            2. That David Letterman can cheat on his wife by having “relations” with his staffers and still have the chutzpah to do a Top Ten List everyday, consistently making fun of Tiger Woods.

            1. You know, I’m starting to get sick of Seinfeld melding into Curb Your Enthusiasm and all those stinking reruns and how all of it makes me feel anxious, worried, and mildly depressed.

            Yeah, maybe it’s better to be artificially cheerful during the holidays, even in the midst of high unemployment, massive debts, and the media’s overkill of stupid news stories that have no place in the news.

            There is one sure way to be cheerful and that’s not to watch the 3 minute YouTube video about Festivus ( It’s instead getting up and singing a rousing chorus of Joel Kopischke’s Oh Festivus (sung to the booming chorus of “Oh Canada”) and picturing yourself nailing it in front of 20,000 screaming Toronto Maple Leaf fans.

            Oh Festivus

            Your praises now we sing

            For the rest of us

            There will be no re-gifting

            Thy shining pole of aluminum

            Completely tinsel-free

            We air grievances oh Festivus

            Can you spare a square for me?

            Thy feats of strength

            Are must-see TV

            Frank Costanza, we’ll pin you first,

you’ll see, Oh Festivus,

            You are spongeworthy.

            Then, picture the Toronto mob coming after you and wrestling you to the ground, which would officially terminate the Festivus celebration for the year.

            Yet, in your heart, you know Festivus will be back, only one year away. So put your pole back in your crawlspace and wait like the rest of us. 



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