Celebrating Festivus: A Guide to the Holiday Created ‘For the Rest of Us’

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You probably need no telling that Festivus, celebrated on Dec. 23, was immortalized in the classic 1997 Seinfeld episode “The Strike.” If you needed telling, the above video should put you on the path to enlightenment.

However, it actually dates back decades and owes its current fame to the imaginative family of sitcom writer Dan O’Keefe. He penned the hilarious episode after his own father Daniel O’Keefe discovered the Festivus holiday in a book of obscure holidays, according to a 2004 New York Times interview.

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As legend has it, the elder O’Keefe – the old romantic he was – decided to inaugurate Festivus with his wife Deborah in 1966 as a celebration of the anniversary of their first date. The holiday, and the O’Keefe family, evolved from there, inspiring O’Keefe junior to base the Seinfeld episode around their annual Festivus, cobbling together some elements of their real-life celebration while simply inventing other details.

So, with Festivus seemingly split between the O’Keefe and the Costanza sects, Newsfeed felt our readers deserved some overall guidance to celebrating this unusual occasion.

1. Throw out the Christmas tree and instead erect an aluminum Festivus pole
– Not part of the O’Keefe tradition, but disciples of the Seinfeld faith consider the pole paramount. According to Festivusweb: “The pole was chosen apparently in opposition to the commercialization of highly decorated Christmas trees, because it is ‘very low-maintenance,’ and also because the holiday’s patron, Frank Costanza, ‘finds tinsel distracting.'”

2. Forget the pleasantries and air your grievances
– An integral part prior to the main Festivus meal. The O’Keefe order uses a tape recorder – its origins in the Samuel Beckett play Krapp’s Last Tape, whose protagonist tapes himself speaking at different times in his life. Meanwhile disciples of Frank Costanza will know loud remonstrations are the only way. As the Queens, N.Y. patron said: “I’ve got a lot of problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it!”

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3. Sit down to a Festivus dinner
– Again, essential for followers of both chapters. O’Keefe offered no guidance on food. The Costanza clan adheres to meatloaf and spaghetti in red sauce and no alcohol – although personal hip flasks with uncertain contents permitted.

4. Last but by no means least, the Feats of Strength
– No Festivus is complete without this post-dinner ritual. If you honor O’Keefe, brothers (and on occasion, sisters) wrestle. Observers of the Costanzas will be aware that a chosen guest, preferably a son, must physically pin down the family head – unless they have something better to do instead. Festivus is not over until the host has been pinned!

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