Culture

2016 Promises A Special Festivus For The Rest Of Us

On Dec. 18, 1997, Frank Costanza introduced the world to Festivus.

The character, played by comedian Jerry Stiller, explained how he invented the new holiday out of frustration with the commercialization of Christmas in the "Seinfeld" episode "The Strike."

"Many Christmases ago I went to buy a doll for my son," Frank Costanza -- the father of George Costanza -- told Cosmo Kramer as the audience stifled giggles. "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!"

"What happened to the doll?" Kramer asked.

"It was destroyed," Frank said, gesturing with both hands. "But out of that, a new holiday was born: A Festivus for the rest of us!"

Festivus falls on Dec. 23, and this year it will be celebrated with the episode "The Strike" airing daily from Dec. 18 to Dec. 23 on every local broadcast channel that airs re-runs of "Seinfeld," according to USA Today. The special re-runs are in honor of a former Seinfeld producer whose dying wish was that Festivus become a major holiday.

In the almost 20 years since the holiday was introduced to viewers, it has gone from a fictional celebration to a real one -- people across the U.S. celebrate Festivus on Dec. 23, and it's often an excuse for people to get together at bars, restaurants and other gathering spots to celebrate their love of "Seinfeld" and their appreciation for the quirky holiday. Local newspapers and magazines are filled with details of individual Festivus celebrations in communities across the country.

The "Five Days of Festivus" in 2016 is a tribute to longtime "Seinfeld" producer Howard West, who died on Dec. 6, 2015 at 84 years old. Before he died, West asked his friends from the entertainment industry to help turn Festivus into a widely celebrated holiday.

Since then, Google has helped continue to popularize Festivus with custom art on its search page appearing on Dec. 23, and #Festivus routinely becomes one of the top trending hashtags on Twitter every December.

On the show, there were several components to a proper Festivus celebration. The most famous is an unadorned aluminum pole with a "very high strength-to-weight ratio," Frank explained. No ornamentation is permitted on the pole.

"I find tinsel distracting," he told Kramer.

That's followed by the traditional Festivus dinner and the Airing of Grievances, in which each person at the table tells the others the ways they've been disappointing over the past year.

Finally comes the Feats of Strength, in which the head of the household challenges a guest to a wrestling match. Festivus isn't officially over until someone pins the patriarch.

The story was written into "The Strike" by "Seinfeld" writer Dan O'Keefe, whose father had invented Festivus and was similarly inscrutable when it came to its rules and symbols.

"The real symbol of the holiday was a clock that my dad put in a bag and nailed to the wall every year," O'Keefe told CNN in 2013. "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.'"

Sources: USA Today, YouTube, SearchEngineLand, FestivusWeb.com, WikiQuote / Photo credit: FestivusWeb

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