Sixteen years ago, Frank Costanza’s eccentricity led to the popularization of the "Festivus," the world’s greatest fake holiday.
In 1997, “Seinfeld” premiered “The Strike,” one of the hit show’s most popular episodes, in which George Costanza’s father, Frank, explains the circumstances that led to the creation of the nondenominational holiday Festivus.
Let’s backtrack a second. At the start of the episode, George, Jerry and Elaine are sitting in their favorite diner, Monk’s, when Elaine reaches across the table and steals George’s holiday card. Elaine sees the word “Festivus” on the card, and she asks George to explain. In typical fashion, George attempts to deny its existence, but Jerry chimes in with a full explanation.
When George was a kid, Jerry says, George's father got tired of all the commercialism associated with normal holidays, so he decided to create his own -- with disastrous consequences for George’s fragile psyche. When Jerry tells how Frank put up an unadorned aluminum pole instead of a Christmas tree, a traumatized George becomes so upset, he storms out of the diner.
Unfortunately for George, Kramer hears about “Festivus” and decides to track down Frank in hopes of rekindling the holiday. In a classic Costanza rant, Frank explains how Festivus came to be:
“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. A new holiday was born: A Festivus for the rest of us!”
Want to celebrate Festivus on your own? Here's a quick rundown of the holiday's traditions: Held annually on Dec. 23, the Festivus celebration consists of the following phases: Festivus Dinner, Airing of Grievances and Feats of Strength. The aforementioned aluminum pole serves as the centerpiece of the home's decorations.
During the Airing of Grievances, family and friends sit at a table and talk about all the ways they have disappointed each other in the past year. For example, during “The Strike,” Frank directs his criticism at George’s boss, Mr. Kruger, telling him that his company “stinks.”
The Feats of Strength are similarly traumatic for George; the head of the household gets to choose a family member or friend and challenge him to a wrestling match. Festivus can’t officially come to an end until the head of the household has been successfully pinned.
This seems to be the part of the holiday that most bothers George. During the episode, Frank initially challenges Kramer to a wrestling match, but when he declines, George is forced to step in and wrestle his father. Needless to say, the fight does not go well for George.
“Seinfeld” may have popularized Festivus, but the obscure holiday actually has real-life origins. The holiday was invented in the 1960s by the father of “Seinfeld” screenwriter David O’Keefe, the New York Daily News noted.
Now that you know the basics of Festivus, go out there and celebrate. Here’s hoping you experience a Festivus miracle.