What is Festivus?

wiseGEEK Writer

Festivus is an unusual made up holiday that gained considerable attention when it was featured in a 1997 episode of the popular American comedy Seinfeld, titled The Strike. Until that point, Festivus was only known by one of the writers, Dan O’Keefe, whose father had originated the holiday many years earlier. O’Keefe made numerous changes to his own family tradition before featuring the holiday as one celebrated yearly by Frank Costanza, the father of one of the main characters, George. George made up the holiday in order to protest his frustration at the commercialization of Christmas, but people of any denomination can celebrate this holiday.

The feats of strength involved with Festivus tradition may involve the attempt of wrestling the head of the house to the floor.
The feats of strength involved with Festivus tradition may involve the attempt of wrestling the head of the house to the floor.

There are several key components in the Festivus tradition, which include displaying an aluminum pole, which is usually not decorated, and is dubbed the Festivus pole. Other traditions include having a fruitcake on hand that people may look at but not eat. The two main aspects of the holiday are the airing of grievances and the feats of strength.

Fruitcake is a traditional aspect of Festivus.
Fruitcake is a traditional aspect of Festivus.

In the airing of grievances, people are allowed to tell anyone else present all of the things they have done that year that were disappointing, annoying or angering. The feats of strength may involve attempting to wrestle the head of the house to the floor and the holiday may not end until this is accomplished. In the original episode featuring Festivus, the head of house gets to pick the person who attempts this wrestling and hints from the episode suggest this wrestling match has been particularly hard on George in previous years.

The peculiarity of the episode and its humor has led to many people celebrating the holiday, usually on 23 December. They may have true “Festivus for the rest of us” celebrations or may get together to watch favorite Seinfeld clips. Numerous celebrants add their own special take to Festivus and can include anything that has to do with hating various holidays as part of the day.

The interest in this holiday has led to a number of products that reference it including t-shirts and mugs. Those who celebrate say that every home deserves a copy of the now popular book by Allen Salkin, Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us. In addition to giving detailed information about the word origin of the holiday name and extensive references, Salkin’s book chronicles the way people around the world have latched on to this silly holiday and added their own unique traditions to it.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments


@Melonlity -- It does seem like something that should have stayed in the 1990s, doesn't it? But that is just a testament to the continued popularity of "Seinfeld."

Heck, that show could have gone another decade or so if the cast and creators had wanted to do that.


Here is one for the "life imitating art" files. It is hard to believe that a briefly sketched out holiday, Festivus, that was the focal point of one episode of a TV show that went off the air two decades ago has become something celebrated annually by people. Ah, but that's how thing are, huh? Perhaps that, in itself, is the very definition of what a Festivus miracle is.

Post your comments
Forgot password?