Teetering on the Verge of Festivus

As we begin our family we are interested in establishing some new holiday traditions to give Little Miss. Cooking certain foods. Reading certain stories. Placing phone calls to people who can’t be with us. Critiquing outdoor house decorations with a 10 point checklist. Anonymously giving luxurious chocolates to the local orphanage.

(Back in my college days, I designed a rating form for Christmas lights and we drove around judging houses, but only delivered our commentaries to the best homes.)

Aluminum Festivus poleThis year we’re instituting a no gifts rule. There will be no gift exchanges outside our immediate family (anyone who doesn’t live in our house). I also like the idea of everyone in the house chipping in to buy (or build) one gift which will benefit everyone in the house.

We do this in reaction to the crass commercialism of Christmas, but also because of the tremendous waste the holiday generates. I have most everything I need. That book or necktie or calendar or ugly sweater you give me will quickly be donated to a charity.

As we diverge from the mainstream holiday, my thoughts turn to Festivus. The December 23rd nondenominational celebration was popularized by an episode of the Seinfeld TV sitcom. Frank Costanza retold a story about shopping for Christmas gifts, and fighting with another man in a store aisle over the last doll on a shelf. "As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way," he said. "Out of that, a new holiday was born… a Festivus for the rest of us!"

The TV version of the holiday has three elements:

  1. Festivus Pole: A bare aluminum pole replaces the Christmas tree because tinsel is too distracting.
  2. Airing of Grievances: Around the dinner table each person tells their family members how they have disappointed him or her throughout the year.
  3. Feats of Strength: Festivus is not over until the head of the family has been pinned to the ground.

I like the belief espoused by festivusbook.com, that "Festivus has no required rituals or totems." I conceivably could raise an aluminum pole in our house, and maybe hold a Feats of Strength challenge with a hula hoop, but there will be no Airing of Grievances. What unusual holiday traditions do you remember from your childhood or celebrate today?

Authoritative Wikipedia article about the Seinfeld Festivus.

Fooey to the World: Festivus Is Come – New York Times article about the original Festivus.

Festivus pole #1 – This pole comes on a metal stand.

Festivus pole #2 – This is only a pole, but the seller demonstrates that a (purchased separately) plastic Christmas tree stand can grip the pole.

Book: The Real Festivus (Paperback) by Daniel O’Keefe (son of the Festivus Founder).

Book: Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us (Hardcover) by Allen Salkin and Jerry Stiller.

FestivusBook.com – lots of great information.

Flickr photos:

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