Festivus - Monday, December 23, 2024

Seasonal Activities Family Friendship Pop Culture TV

Festivus is on December 23 and it’s perfect for those who don’t have a traditional holiday to celebrate. Although it sounds paradoxical, its purpose makes a lot of sense. Not everyone has a major holiday to celebrate like Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa and they can feel left out. This holiday gives many people a non-denominational and non-commercial holiday to call their own. Festivus is for everybody!

Everyone likes to enjoy the holidays in their own special ways, but one holiday stands out more than the rest. Festivus, a holiday that seems like a joke but in all reality is a popular holiday growing through the masses in the United States. Let’s dig deeper into the past to find the origins of this plain, yet popular holiday.

Learn about Festivus Day

If you’re someone who doesn’t like the commercialism of the Christmas season, you are going to love Festivus. After all, there is no denying that a lot of us can feel under pressure during the festive period. It is the most expensive time of the year, and this can put a lot of financial strain on people. So, it’s great to have a day that is the opposite of this instead!

The date was created by the late author Daniel O’Keefe. Daniel was an American writer who worked for the Reader’s Digest for over 30 years. Festivus is a bit of a family affair because it was actually Dan O’Keefe, Daniel’s son, who made the day popular by making it the focus of an episode of Seinfield in 1997. You can watch this episode to get an idea of what Festivus is all about. 

The episode refers to the day as “a Festivus for the rest of us”. On the episode, you will see that events that are very easy to explain are ironically called “Festivus miracles.” There are also practices such as “Feats of Strength” and “Airing of Grievances,” as well as an unadorned aluminium Festivus pole, and a Festivus dinner. So, if you really want to celebrate this day the traditional day, make sure you take full inspiration from the episode that helped to make this day what it is! 

Whether you consider Festivus Day a form of playful consumer resistance or a parody holiday festival, there is no denying that it is a lot of fun. Of course, it is perfect for anyone who is not a fan of Christmas and hates all of the commercialism that comes to the fore during December. 

History of Festivus

Ironically, Festivus has a very odd and amusing start. It was conceived by author and editor Daniel O’Keefe and was celebrated as early back as 1966 by him and his family. But, how did Festivus become so popular if it was just a family tradition? To find that out, we must move forward in time to an episode of the famous television show Seinfeld.

While the holiday is extremely popular among people today, the first time Festivus was mentioned in American culture was in the episode of Seinfeld called “The Strike”, but there’s more to the name of Festivus than just a referenced television episode, right? Indeed there is, because the word “festive” is derived from the Latin word “Festivus”.

Sound familiar? It should. Festivus is an adjective meaning “excellent, jovial, and lively” which in turn derives from Festus, which means “joyous; holiday; feast day”. Plus, it brings one to think, maybe Festivus is to prove that we as humans don’t need material objects to be happy on a holiday, but all we really need is excellent company, jovial attitudes, and lively music to make the holidays the best we could have.

How To celebrate Festivus

Now, to celebrate Festivus it is actually quite simple to remember and even simpler to do. Festivus is celebrated as a holiday by those seeking to find an alternative to the commercialism and pressures that the Christmas holiday shopping can cause. While the holiday of Festivus is easy to celebrate and easily remembered how to celebrate, there are a few things we need for the holiday. In the episode of Seinfeld, they use an aluminum pole in place of a Christmas tree.

The O’Keefe family’s tradition was to put a clock in a bag and nail it to the wall. Next is the dinner, which usually just consists of turkey, or in some cases to match the colors of the Seinfeld episode, meatloaf on a bed of lettuce. Afterwards is the Airing of Grievances, where each person at the table stands up one at a time and tells the others what they dislike about them and then how the world has disappointed them that year.

Finally, comes the Feats of Strength which is celebrated immediately following the Festivus dinner, The head of the household selects one person at the Festivus celebration and challenges them to a wrestling match, and as Festivus tradition states, the Festivus holiday is not over until the head of the household is pinned by their opponent.

Of course, you don’t need to follow the traditional Festivus celebrations if you don’t want to. As Festivus Day is against the commercialism of Christmas and all of the pressures that come with this, you could focus on this notion when deciding how to celebrate this date. Why not send a message to all of your friends to check in on how they’re doing? Let them know that they don’t have to worry about buying anything for you at Christmas or spending a lot of money, as that’s not what it is all about. 

There are also a lot of events that take place on this day around the world. It is worth doing a quick search online to find out whether or not there is anything going on in your local area. For example, in Pittsburgh, there has been a yearly Festivus celebration for the public since 2005. This involves a number of holiday traditions, a Seinfield trivia competition, and live bands, so there is a lot of fun to be had! If there is nothing taking palace in your local area, you could take it upon yourself to host an event instead! Get some friends together and have fun on Festivus Day. 

History of Festivus

The world was made aware of Festivus in a “Seinfeld” episode. TV Writer Dan O’Keefe’s father, Daniel O’Keefe, found a reference to an obscure holiday and celebrated it in 1966. At the time, he was doing research for his book “Stolen Lightning” which explored astrology, cults, and paranormal activity. He chose the date of December 23 to celebrate it because it was the anniversary of his first date with his wife.

In the 1997 episode of “Seinfeld” titled, “The Strike” George Castanza is the one who celebrates Festivus. The holiday was created by his father Frank and they celebrated it throughout George’s childhood. Instead of a tree or menorah, an aluminum pole was the symbol of Festivus. They’d have a dinner of meatloaf as the main course and afterward, they had “Feats of Strength” and “Airing of Grievances” traditions. In the latter, people could bring up what disappointed them about the previous year’s gifts.

Because of the show’s popularity and the catchphrase “A Festivus for the rest of us,” Festivus took on a life of its own. People related to the message of inclusion and the zaniness of it all and created their own traditions from it. In 2004, Dan confessed that the real tradition was even more peculiar than on the show. There wasn’t a pole, but there were airings of grievances that they recorded on a tape recorder.

In 2009, Dan O’Keefe gave further insight into the famous catchphrase. “A Festivus for the rest of us” was a family Festivus motto. After the death of his paternal grandmother, it took on the positive meaning of looking towards the future and a reminder to appreciate life and the living.

Festivus timeline


Let the dead bury the dead

Dan O’Keefe reveals that the Festivus catchphrase is meant as a reminder to look to the future in his family.


Secrets of Festivus

TV writer Dan O’Keefe reveals that there are more peculiar traditions left out of the episode like using a tape recorder to record the grievances.


TV Sensation

An episode of “Seinfeld” features Festivus, written by Daniel’s son and the public is introduced to the holiday.


The First Festivus

Daniel O'Keefe celebrates the anniversary of his first date with his wife and the day became known as Festivus based on an obscure holiday.

Festivus FAQs

What does Festivus mean?

Festivus is a secular holiday celebrated on December 23 as a religious holiday season alternative. The name most likely is a combination of “Festive us”, you know, like “for the rest of us.”

Do people really celebrate Festivus?

Ever since “Seinfeld” brought the holiday to the masses, many people participate in celebrating Festivus as a Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza alternative.

Who came up with Festivus?

The original idea of Festivus was created by author Daniel O’Keefe, father to “Seinfeld” writer Dan O’Keefe.

Five Facts About Festivus

  1. Google it

    Google introduced a custom search result in 2012 for the term Festivus with an unadorned aluminum pole.

  2. O, aluminum pole

    You can purchase your own Festivus pole on Amazon.

  3. Florida recognizes Festivus

    A resident of Deerfield Beach, Florida, petitioned for a Festivus pole to stand next to the Capitol building’s Christmas tree and nativity scene and he won.

  4. “Seinfeld” gets social

    The #AiringofGrievances hashtag has been used to complain about various issues on social media.

  5. What might not have been

    Dan O’Keefe didn’t originally want to include an episode about Festivus, but he was convinced otherwise.

How To Celebrate Festivus

  1. Reenact the traditions from the show

    The traditions of Festivus in “Seinfeld” are good for a laugh. Construct an aluminum pole and display it prominently as you have meatloaf on a bed of lettuce with your family and friends. Show off your strength with an (arm) wrestling match then playfully air your grievances. If you’re uninterested in any of these games, per the rules you can decline participation as long as you have something better to do.

  2. Make your own traditions

    The best thing about Festivus is that by its very nature it doesn’t subscribe to any one set of traditions. This gives you the right to celebrate the holiday however you’d like. Instead of meatloaf, you can make your favorite meal, and instead of airing your grievances, everyone can tell their favorite joke. No tradition is too ridiculous for Festivus.

  3. Have a “Seinfeld” Marathon

    Since “Seinfeld” is responsible for its massive appeal, it seems only fitting to honor the show itself. Have a marathon of your favorite “Seinfeld” episodes, making sure to include Festivus, and share it with your loved ones. Be warned, afterward, you’ll probably be quoting the characters for days.

Why We Love Festivus

  1. The pressure is off

    So many other holidays require a lot of hard work in order for them to be successful. From the gift-giving to the expectations of dress, it can be a time that people dread for fear of failure. Festivus has a very casual and playful charm where you can relax and treat it more like a game than an obligation.

  2. You can customize it

    Traditions can be fun, but they can also be limiting. With Festivus, you can keep what you want and throw out what you don’t want. There are no rules against including some of the traditions that you’re fond of, and that makes it more personal.

  3. The meaning of Festivus

    While it might seem like a long-running joke, it’s truly a meaningful holiday. Holiday traditions can feel exclusive to certain groups. This opens the holiday season to those that would prefer to celebrate secular holiday traditions. Festivus is inclusive.

Also on Mon Dec 23, 2024...

Roots Day
Dec 23