Are you tired of listening to the same Christmas songs over and over? Are you weary of commercials and ads that have a new holiday sale every week? Maybe you’ve been watching T.V. holiday specials since November 1. Perhaps you just spent Thanksgiving with all the relatives that drive you crazy and will be back again on Christmas. If you’re in need of a palette cleanser (so to speak) before Christmas and New Year’s, then it’s time to celebrate Festivus!
Festivus was created and popularized by the character Frank Costanza on the hit show Seinfeld and was meant to be an alternative to the excessive commercialization of the holiday season. On December 23, friends and family (just the members who don’t drive you crazy!) gather around the Festivus pole to eat dinner, air grievances and then perform feats of strength.
Although it is technically a T.V. holiday, people across the country actually do celebrate Festivus and most major cities across the country have some kind of festival or event to celebrate the day. There was even a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor!
It’s meant to be a lighthearted holiday that reminds us to take a break from some of the excesses of the holiday season. We’ve broken down exactly what you’ll need to hold your own Festivus celebration.
“I find tinsel distracting.”
There is only one decoration you will ever need for Festivus: an unadorned pole, preferably aluminum (because of the very high strength-to-weight ratio). This may sound strange but it’s meant to be the complete opposite of a fancy Christmas tree, candles, lights or other decorations. Search your garage or basement for a pole or substitute an aluminum bat. It doesn’t have to be nice, in fact it shouldn’t be! Mount the pole or hang it from wire wherever your gathering will take place. No other decorations are allowed, especially not tinsel.
“At the Festivus dinner you gather your family around and tell them all the ways they have disappointed you over the past year.”
Don’t bother with a turkey or ham and you can forget about mashed potatoes and stuffing. Festivus dinner is simple but filling. The main dish should be meatloaf (which is served on a bed of lettuce on the show) or spaghetti. Side dishes vary with some hosts choosing to follow a Seinfeld theme and serve foods mentioned in various episodes but you are free to be creative.
Skip a tablescape and serve everyone with plain dishes and silverware. You’re even encouraged to use paper plates. Remember, you’re trying to do the opposite of a lavish holiday celebration. No festive drinks are served on the show, but we think you can make an exception for something as important as cocktails.
“I got a lot of problems with you people and now you’re going to hear about it!”
During dinner, everyone participates in the Airing of Grievances. This is a time for everyone to go around the table and talk about all the ways everyone else has disappointed them. If this sounds depressing, don’t worry! You don’t have to take it too seriously. If you were annoyed when a younger sibling ate the last doughnut or mom accidentally shrank your favorite sweater- let them know! This a time to vent and let go of any grudges held during the year.
“Until you pin me, Festivus is not over.”
The last activity is performing Feats of Strength. This can be anything from thumb wrestling to arm wrestling. Traditionally, the head of the household picks someone to wrestle with and Festivus cannot end until the head has been pinned to the ground. Sound silly? Think of it as a chance to finally pin your little sibling in the name of a holiday tradition (especially if he or she really did eat the last doughnut). If wrestling isn’t feasible, substitute competitive activities or games instead.
“It’s a Festivus miracle!”
Throughout the night you should celebrate Festivus miracles. These are in fact everyday occurrences, like finding a parking spot or winning a game. But Festivus is all about not taking the season too seriously so take every chance you get to declare “It’s a Festivus miracle!”
There have been many well-known T.V. holidays; Chrismukkah from The O.C. or Treat Yo Self Day from Parks and Recreation. Festivus is arguably the one day that lets you buck against tradition and take a break from, what is for some, a very long holiday season. This day lets you take a step back from Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s and have a minimal day just to enjoy yourself with friends. In the words of Frank Costanza, “It’s a Festivus for the rest of us!”
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