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 Ceremonies & Celebrations
Festivus - Non-denominational alternate Christmas-time holiday featured on episode No. 166 "The Strike" on the sitcom SEINFELD/NBC/1990-98. Festivus was created by Frank Costanza (Jerry Stiller) after getting into a fight in a toy store when he and another man both grabbed for the last doll in the place. Frustrated at the commercialization of Christmas, Frank created Festivus.

Frank Costanza holds a Festivus Pole

Frank: Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. 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.
Kramer: What happened to the doll?
Frank: It was destroyed. But out of that a new holiday was born . . . a Festivus for the rest of us!
Kramer: That must've been some doll.
Frank: She was!

Celebrated on December 23rd, the pseudo-festival features an undecorated eight-foot aluminum pole (no tinsel, or ornaments), a father-son wrestling match ("The Feats of Strength") and the ("The Airing of Grievances") when each member at the gathering sat around the dinner table and insultingly counted down the reasons why other family members were such a disappointment throughout that year. The main Festivus meal consisted of spaghetti (or what looked like meatloaf?) covered in a red sauce.

George Costanza (Jason Alexander) hated Festivus because he always lost the wrestling match and because it was so silly. But despite his disdain for the annual ritual, George used Festivus as a cover story when he was caught in an fake Christmas charity scam. Calling his bluff, George's boss came home with George to see Festivus in action. The get-together was a fiasco and ended with George being pummeled by his father who wrestled him to the floor as George screamed "Ow! I give! Uncle!" 

The concept of "Festivus" was created in 1966 by Daniel O'Keefe, a former writer for Readers Digest who later wrote the book "Stolen Lightning: The social theory of magic," (Vintage, 1983) A review in the New York Times described the book as "a work of sociology that explores the ways people used cults, astrology and the paranormal as a defense against social pressures." 

Years later, O'Keefe's son, Dan O'Keefe introduced the idea of Festivus to the SEINFELD program when he worked as a writer for the show. Dan's father originally chose the day December 23rd in honor of his first date with his wife, Deborah.

Festivus Episode Excerpts

George: (George sighs while reading a card)
Elaine: What?
George: It's a card from my dad.
Elaine: What is it? (Grabs the card from George, and  reads it loud.) "Dear son, Happy Festivus." What is Festivus?
George: It's nothing, stop it..
Jerry: When George was growing up..
George: (Interrupting) Jerry, No!
Jerry: His father..
George: No!
Jerry: Hated all the commercial and religious aspects of Christmas, so he made up his own holiday.
Elaine: Ohhhh.. and another piece of the puzzle falls into place.
George: (pleading) Alright..
Jerry: And instead of a tree, didn't your father put up an aluminum pole? (Elaine starts laughing uncontrollably)
George: Jerry! Stop it!
Jerry: And weren't there a feats of strength that always ended up with you crying?
George: I can't take it anymore! I'm going to work! Are you happy now?! (George runs out of the coffee shop. Elaine and Jerry laugh hysterically)


Meanwhile, George comes up with a great way to save money during Christmas by giving a card to each employee at work that states he has donated monies in their name to the charity called "The Human Fund" in lieu of a Christmas present. The fake charity scam allows George to save face and his money. His scheme backfires, however, when his boss has an extra $20,000 to donate to the good cause and gives Georges a check for the  bogus charity. Later, his boss confronts him with the deception. 

George: George, we have a problem. There's a memo, here, from accounting telling me there's no such thing as the Human Fund.
George: Well, there could be.
Kruger: But there isn't.
George: Well, I - I could, Uh, I could give the money back. Here. (Holds it out)
Kruger: George, I don't get it. If there's no Human Fund, those donation cards were fake. You better have a damn good reason why you gave me a fake Christmas gift.
George: Well, sir, I - I gave out the fake card, because, um, I don't really celebrate Christmas. I, um, I celebrate Festivus.
Kruger: Vemonous?
George: Festivus, Sir. And, uh, I was afraid that I would be persecuted for my beliefs. They drove my family out of Bayside, Sir!
Kruger: Are you making all this up, too?
George: Oh, no, Sir. Festivus is all too real. And.. I could prove it - if I had to.
Kruger: Yeah, you probably should.



Kramer on Strike at the Bagel Shop


George and Mr. Kruger arrive at the Costanza House for the Festivus celebration. In attendance are friends Jerry, Elaine, Kramer and George's parents Frank and Estelle Costanza.

George: Happy Festivus! (Sees Elaine) Yama - Hama!
Elaine: I didn't have time to go home. What are you doing here?
George: Embracing my roots.
Jerry: They nailed you on the 20 G's?
George: Busted cold.


Estelle brings in the dinner and Franks speaks.
 

Frank: Welcome, new comers. The tradition of Festivus begins with the airing of grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people! And now you're gonna hear about it! You, Kruger. My son tells me your company stinks!
George: Oh, God.
Frank: (To George) Quiet, you'll get yours in a minute. Kruger, you couldn't smooth a silk sheet if you had a hot date with a babe.. I lost my train of thought....And now as Festivus rolls on, we come to the feats of strength.
George: Not the feats of strength..


Frank offers Kramer the honor of participating in the Feats of Strength ceremony, but Kramer has to leave.

George:  Kramer! You can't go! Who's gonna do the feats of strength?
Kruger: (Sipping liquor from a flask) How about George?
Frank: Good thinking, Kruger. Until you pin me, George, Festivus is not over!
George: Oh, please, somebody, stop this!
Frank:  (Taking off his sweater) Let's rumble!
George: Ow! .. Ow! I give, I give! Uncle!
Frank: This is the best Festivus ever!

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