Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's A Festivus For The Rest Of Us!

Happy Festivus, everybody (all eight of you)!

That's right! It's December 23, the official day of the unofficial holiday of Festivus! For those of you unclear on the concept of Festivus, allow me.

It was December 18, 1997. A Thursday, as I recall. It was late in the evening, perhaps around 9pm, when the 'Seinfeld' episode "The Strike" first aired. It was during that episode that the Frank Costanza character explained to Kramer how it came to be that he, Frank himself, had invented Festivus. According to Frank, "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....But out of that a new holiday was born: a Festivus for the rest of us!" And God bless 'im! God bless all the "Seinfeld" cast!!

Just like Christmas and other traditional holidays (or, at least, holidays most people have heard of) there are decorations and activities galore! But unlike Christmas, there is no tree. That's right! No tree! (Happy now, environmentalists? Happy now, all of you 'Save the Rainforest' freakazoids? Happy?!!) Instead there is a pole. According to Frank, the reason for the pole is that "It requires no decoration. I find tinsel distracting....It's made from aluminum. Very high strength-to-weight ratio." (I, too, find tinsel, and other shiny objects, quite distracting. So this is a welcome element to the tradition because sometimes I...hey! What's blinking over there....?)During the year when it is not Festivus season, the pole is stored away (similar to what you do with your artificial Christmas tree if you have chosen to destroy the environment that way). Frank stores his in the crawlspace of the attic. (I thought I'd throw that in there in case you were for at a loss as to what you could do with your Festivus pole throughout the year.)

There doesn't seem to be a "traditional" Festivus food or meal. You can pretty much have whatever you want. After all, it's Festivus! But immediately after the big Festivus meal has been served (you kind of just assume that whatever it is, it's going to be big. I don't know why, but you just do.) that is when the traditional activities of the holiday take place. And you don't want to miss these. Oh, no! First up, the Airing of Grievances.

The Airing of Grievances, again according to Frank Costanza, "...consists of lashing out at others and the world about how one has been disappointed in the past year." (Interesting. That was just known as "dinnertime" in my house growing up.) It sounds like a fab-ulous idea! Better yet, there's no need to apologize or hug and make up after you've aired all said grievances! Wonderful! Festivus, a holiday of liberating proportions! (In "The Strike" Frank gets the Airing of Grievances rolling by starting with "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!" Again, most excellent!)

Once grievances are aired and the Festivus (or Feastivus) is completed, then it is time for the Feats of Strength! The Feats of Strengths follow these guidelines: "Traditionally, the head of the household selects one person at the Festivus celebration and challenges that person to a wrestling match. 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." It sort of has that WWF feel to it, only without all of the fakery and the steroids (as far as we know). As we all know what a stressful time the holiday season can be, I suggest having an ample supply of protective headgear available for the very young and the elderly. Everyone else just has to tough it out. It's unclear in the Festivus yore if the head of the household pins his wrestling opponent of choice if he selects another victim or if that poor sap must continue until, if ever, he pins down the household head.


Judging from the way that Festivus was invented, it's pretty safe to say that there is no gift giving during the Festivus holiday. And that's just fine because in reality? Most people are not very good gift givers. Just take George Costanza, Frank's son. The son that he was buying the doll for when all hell broke loose. During the same episode in which Festivus was introduced to the rest of the world (or, at least, the world with US television programming) George gave "charitable donations" in the recipient's name as Christmas gifts that year. It's the one gift that people don't like, don't want, and will never say another word about. Why? Because it's a charity! You can't bad mouth a charity! (But you can bad mouth George because his "charity" was fictional. He made it up. Thus, all of his Christmas gifts said "A donation has been made in your name to 'The Human Fund: Money For People.' ")



What a glorious holiday! Aluminum poles, aired grievances, feats of pinning strength! It all sounds very cathartic. What could possibly go wrong?! Both nothing and everything, that is correct. Just let the thing run it's course and you'll be fine either way. So again, Happy Festivus everyone! Where's my pole?

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