With holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah fast approaching, we are reminded of the pressures and commercialism associated with the holiday season. These days, the holidays seem to be less about bringing everyone together and more about putting up with that one great aunt who has had too much eggnog in order to get your presents. It seems that almost the minute Halloween ends, it is open season for stores to bombard us with ads insinuating that their products are the only way to show our family we love them. The holidays should be about more than grown men fighting over the last limited edition Barbie at the Toys R’ Us holiday sale, and because of this, more and more people are turning to new holidays like Festivus to escape from the commercialized fiasco that has become our winter holidays.
According to “Festivus! The Book: A Complete Guide to the Holiday for the Rest of Us” by Mark Nelson, Festivus was created in 1966 by Daniel O’Keefe and introduced to the world through a 1997 episode of Seinfeld written by O’Keefe’s son. The episode highlights many Festivus traditions and also mentions the classic phrase “Festivus for the rest of us,” meaning that it is a holiday for those without a religious affiliation. The holiday, which takes place on Dec. 23, has gained enormous popularity in recent years for its protest of holiday commercialization and pressure, in addition to its many odd customary practices.
Just as Christmas has its tree and Hanukkah has its menora, those celebrating Festivus display a Festivus pole to commemorate the holiday. The Festivus pole is an unlit, undecorated aluminum pole that is an essential part of the Festivus tradition. Revered for its strength to weight ratio, the aluminum pole that is displayed during Festivus must remain completely tinsel free, as that would distract from its simplistic beauty. It should be specified that the Festivus pole is not for dancing upon in any way shape or form and that pole dancing should be left to the professionals. If one were to happen upon 24 empty beer cans emptied by of age individuals, the Festivus pole can be built out of beer cans either by sawing off the ends of the cans and sliding them onto a PVC pipe slightly smaller in diameter, or by simply hot gluing them together and hoping for the best.
Before the rest of the Festivus practices occur, a celebratory Festivus dinner is eaten by all those gathered together in the Festivus spirit. The Festivus dinner can vary from family to family, but meatloaf on a bed of lettuce is very popular because it is featured in the Seinfeld episode. The dinner should not be anything particularly fancy; fast food or T.V. dinners are acceptable, and paper plates and plastic silverware are the preferred cutlery.
Additionally, before the Festivus dinner is eaten, the “Airing of Grievances” must commence. The Airing of Grievances consists of each person at the table describing how they have been disappointed by those at the table in the past year, giving a verbal bashing or two before the next person airs their grievances and so on and so forth. There are to be no solutions recommended at the table during this time, for it is not the “Airing and Fixing of Grievances.” It is simply a time to tell your family what you do not enjoy about their company, without fear of potential backlash. In the case that you have a particularly long grievance, it is a good idea to write it down on a sticky note so you can properly roast your family member of choice without losing your train of thought. If you come from a shy family or are afraid of hurting people’s feelings, there is an anonymous, sissy version of airing your grievances where one can write the grievance down on a sticky note and attach it to the Festivus pole. Likewise, the grievances can be written down and put in a hat to add anonymity to the familial insults. Not as fun in my opinion, but remember you have to live with these people, so keep that in mind when the insulting begins.
Traditionally, Festivus is not over until the head of the household is pinned on the ground in a wrestling match during the “Feats of Strength” portion of the evening. Depending on the size and ferocity of the participants, favored furniture should be moved or completely removed from the vicinity. In the case that people prefer not to end their Festivus celebration with an emergency room visit, severe caution should be taken and rigorous wrestling should be avoided. A referee is also recommended during the feat so that a clear winner can be established. However, a wrestling match is not the only option to end the holiday. Therefore, thumb wrestling, push up competitions, arm wrestling, Just Dance battles, Wii bowling, or (if you are of age) beer pong matches are also acceptable. Feats to be avoiding include anything involving fire, shopping carts, rolling down hills, climbing on roofs, or baiting/wrestling wild animals. Attempting to joust or swordfight with the Festivus pole should also be avoided as that might damage or hurt the pole.
Another aspect crucial to Festivus is the “Festivus Miracles” that happen all through November and December as the holiday nears. A Festivus Miracle can be any ordinary or easily explainable occurrence. For example, gas went down ten cents…It’s a Festivus Miracle! I found the T.V. remote in the couch…It’s a Festivus miracle! I ordered a pizza and the pizza guy showed up…Another Festivus Miracle! The term Festivus Miracle can be used quite liberally, even to the point of annoyance to others, and the miracles help get you into the Festivus mood as Dec. 23 gets closer.
Festivus is no longer a small fad and has spread all over the United States, as well as into other countries like Canada and Australia. It has even been introduced to Afghanistan through our deployed soldiers. In Salem, Mass., there is a Festivus 5k in its third year running where miniature Festivus poles are awarded to the winners. Festivus memorabilia like Festivus sweaters, specialized Festivus poles, and Festivus board games are all available for purchase online. Festivus has even made its way to the government. After citizen complaints, Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s administration put up a Festivus pole as part of a multi-denominational holiday display at the capitol building. Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky also showed some Festivus spirit by airing his grievances on Twitter, taking shots at President-elect Trump’s made in China ties. Festivus can be found everywhere from internet memes to the United States Senate.
The glorious thing about Festivus is that it does not have to be celebrated instead of another holiday but can just be a way to have holiday fun in addition to your family’s preexisting traditions. There is no strict way to celebrate Festivus because it is simply meant to allow people to get together with family and friends and have a few laughs. So this coming Dec. 23, consider jazzing up your holiday celebrations by throwing up a Festivus pole and joining this humorous holiday. If you want more details, please visit festivusweb.com or read “Festivus! The Book” for more information.