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Geek Trivia: Reason for the season

Who is the original creator of Festivus, an absurdist faux-holiday 30 years older than the episode of Seinfeld that made it internationally famous?
Author's note: This edition of Geek Trivia originally appeared on Dec. 12, 2007, but since today is your friendly neighborhood Trivia Geek's birthday -- and thus he's already started his holiday merry-making -- he lazily recycled this Classic Geek to fill space. Think of it as the gift that keeps on giving, because you've received it twice. Enjoy.

On Dec. 18, 1997, the Seinfeld episode "The Strike" aired for the first time, introducing the world to the now infamous faux holiday, Festivus. Billed as a counterpoint to the perceived increasing commercialism of Christmas (even though said commercialism is vital to the economy), Festivus -- the so-called "holiday for the rest of us" -- struck a chord with audiences, and real-world celebrations of this fictional festivity have been on the rise ever since.

For those unfamiliar with Festivus, here are its primary rituals and traditions as described on the show:

  • In lieu of a Christmas tree or Menorah, there is simply an aluminum Festivus Pole. The Pole is undecorated, and there should be no gifts beneath it (or purchased at all, actually).
  • Rather than an exchange of gifts, family members embark on an Airing of Grievances, in which each person explains how the other people present have disappointed him or her this year. This event usually follows the Festivus Dinner, which is often meatloaf or spaghetti with red sauce, rather than turkey, ham, or brisket.
  • Instead of singing hymns or carols, members of the household engage in Feats of Strength. All Festivus rituals, particularly the Airing of Grievances, must continue until the head of the household is successfully pinned during the Feats of Strength.

Despite its absurdity -- or perhaps because of it -- many groups and families now throw Festivus parties during the December holiday season. (On the show, Festivus officially occurs on December 23.)

You can even order an official Festivus Pole online, track down some official Festivus seasonal wine, and perhaps even grab a carton of vintage Festivus-flavored Ben & Jerry's ice cream on eBay. (OK, so the flavor has since been discontinued, but you can vote online to resurrect it, which might count as a Festivus miracle.)

Lost in all this Festivus revelry is the fact that, despite Seinfeld's role in popularizing Festivus, the holiday is not original to the sitcom. In fact, Festivus was over 30 years old when "The Strike" first aired a decade ago.

Ironically, for a holiday ostensibly devoted to denouncing commercialization, Festivus may have been commercialized to the point of obscuring its own origins.

WHO IS THE ORIGINAL CREATOR OF THE FAUX HOLIDAY FESTIVUS?

Get the answer.

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

15 comments
nickpixel
nickpixel

No, "said commercialism" is NOT "vital to the economy". Stick to tech. There are already enough people spewing economic fallacies. As Murray Rothbard once said, "It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a 'dismal science.' But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance." I like the rest of the post though. I though the Seinfeld writers made up the holiday.

ProfessorCurt
ProfessorCurt

The 3 finest words in recent television history are: "Seinfelds Last Episode". This episode "The Strike" that introduces Festivus for the Rest of Us is a prime example of why I say that: A Holiday about Nothing from a show about Nothing that actively encourages the "dumbing-down" of America. (I understand that I'm in a minority and I'll probably get royally flamed for this!).

GNX
GNX

Merry Christmas to everyone. If you don't celebrate Christmas, have a nice day off. If you are offended by it, to bad.

scarville
scarville

My wife used to do a similar thing when she felt the need for a celebration. She called it an "unbirthday" party which the well read geek will recognize as the neologism coined by Lewis Carrol in Through the Looking Glass.

TaDaH
TaDaH

Jay, Hope you have a super birthday! T

tioedong
tioedong

I think it's sad...instead of a simple holiday stressing generous gift giving to children and the poor we have people making a holiday that is all about them... Yes, I know it's a satire of the overblown commercialism of Christmas, but it's still sad

GSteve
GSteve

Here is the link to a B&J press release. Interestingly enough (probably for the sake of the Seinfeld storyline) they actually give credit to the George's father, not the actual creator. http://www.benjerry.com/our_company/press_center/press/festivus1127.html I guess we all just have to be thankful that good ol' Jay keeps us in the know about all the important details of life. :)

mikeholli
mikeholli

Star Trek was the baby of the late great Gene Roddenberry. This was his dreams/vision of what he hoped the future of mankind would turn out to be like. And if you think about it, his wasn't the only author with these dreams/hopes/ambitions. I can go with dozens upon dozens of books where this is the authors hopes and storyline. But Mr. Roddenberry was able to take it to a young viewing audience when television was in and of itself very young. Never has any program garnished such a following as the original Star Trek. Mr. Shatner next time you go into a convention, I would say drop to your knees and thank every fan out there. For if it wasn't the fans, Star Trek would of NEVER endured such a wondrous run.

a.southern
a.southern

Was there a TV program that followed him around? Here's me thinking the 3 finest words were: "Former President Bush" (thanks Lach).....

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I have no earthly idea how Seinfeld lasted as long as it did. The episode I watched was entirely forgettable; IMNSHO the entire series ranks down there with reality shows, American Idol, and Barney.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

...that you think I might be offended. :p Mer-ry Flip-pin' Chrst-mas! :|

boomchuck1
boomchuck1

Actually since this was a Seinfeld thing I think it is very appropriate that the fake holiday was all about them. That's pretty much what the show was about, a bunch of selfish people out for themselves and making light of everybody else as somehow less than them.

scott.metter
scott.metter

What does that have to do with festivus?

JeffDeWitt
JeffDeWitt

Maybe the point is that Trek has nothing to do with Festivus and after all Festivus is a festival about nothing right?