For the Rest of Us
December 23, 1997: Festivus is celebrated on television. Editor and author Daniel O’Keefe’s family celebrated Festivus as early as 1966 but in their family, the holiday was celebrated as family tensions rose and any time between December and May. In 1982, O’Keefe wrote a book dealing with rituals and the social significance found in them, a theme relevant to his family’s made-up holiday. The name of the holiday is not based on the Latin for festival which is also festivus. The first Festivus was celebrated in February 1966 when O’Keefe went out on his first date with the woman who would eventually become his wife. Today, the holiday is celebrated each year on December 23 because his son wrote an episode on this holiday for Seinfeld.
“The Strike” was written by Daniel and his son, Dan, O’Keefe and aired on December 18, 1997. It was the 166th episode of the NBC sitcom and appeared in the last season of Seinfeld’s ten year run. In the episode, Jerry, George, and Elaine discussed the holiday which George’s father had created – Festivus. Kramer learned of the holiday when George’s father visited the bagel shop where Kramer had recently returned to work and described the alternative to Christmas. He had created the holiday as a protest to the commercialization of Christmas.
Meanwhile, George didn’t wish to buy any presents and created a fake charity, The Human Fund. George’s boss donated $20,000 to the fund and when he found out that is wasn’t a true charity, questioned George. George, who had a knack for turning something a little bit bad into something awful, decided to use Festivus as his excuse and explained that he was fearful of repercussions due to his beliefs. George’s boss didn’t actually buy the idea and went with George to his home to see the holiday celebration in action. Kramer became upset when his boss didn’t give him time off from work for his Festivus celebrations and went out on strike. He was seen picketing the bagel shop. George convinced his friends to help him out and they had a Festivus celebration in order to show George’s boss how real the holiday was.
According to Seinfeld, part of the celebration was the “Airing of Grievances” which took place while eating dinner. Each person got to tell the others how they have disappointed the raconteur during the past year. After dinner, the “Feats of Strength” were performed and if the head of the household could be pinned, the holiday ended. A Festivus pole was an aluminum pole of specific tensile strength which was unadorned and dinner was a meatloaf concoction served on a bed of lettuce. None of these were part of the original O’Keefe celebration. Festivus can be celebrated today and many people are able to have a bit of fun on December 23 thanks to the sitcom.
The real symbol of the holiday was a clock that my dad put in a bag and nailed to the wall every year…I don’t know why, I don’t know what it means, he would never tell me. He would always say, ‘That’s not for you to know.’ – Dan O’Keefe
Festivus yes! Bagels no! – Cosmo Kramer
It’s Festivus… for the rest of us! – Frank Costanza
Kramer: Is there a tree?
Frank: No. Instead, there’s a pole. Requires no decoration. I find tinsel distracting.
Also on this day: Jolly Old Elf – In 1823, Twas the Night Before Christmas was first published.
Survivor, The Real Story – In 1972, the Andes flight disaster finally came to an end.
Tokyo Tower – In 1958, Tokyo Tower was dedicated.
Around the World in Nine Days – In 1986, the Voyager landed at Edwards Air Force Base and completed a non-stop trip around the world.
Another One Bites the Dust – In 679, King Dagobert II was murdered.