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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?

Who is the original creator of Festivus, an absurdist faux-holiday 30 years older than the episode of Seinfeld that made it internationally famous?

The true Father of Festivus is former Reader's Digest editor Dan O'Keefe, who first concocted a familiar version of Festivus in 1966. His son Daniel O'Keefe was a scriptwriter for Seinfeld in 1997, and it was he who first brought his family's peculiar personal holiday to the attention of the sitcom, setting in motion the media-driven evolution of Festivus as we know it today. You can read all about it in his book, The Real Festivus.

The first rule of the true Festivus is that there are no rules. In fact, true Festivus isn't an antidote to Christmas, because it can be -- and has been -- celebrated at almost any time of the year.

Pretty much anytime the elder O'Keefe felt the need, he conjured up an excuse -- and a theme -- for a Festivus celebration. For example, the inaugural Festivus predates Daniel O'Keefe or any of his siblings, as Dan O'Keefe simply coined the term to describe the anniversary of his and his wife's first date.

During the 1970s, Dan O'Keefe was doing research for a book titled Stolen Lightning, which documented the sociological functions of rituals and superstitions. His investigations into these subjects provided him endless fodder to conjure up oblique and unusual Festivus "traditions," each unique to the specific Festivus celebration being planned. The most memorable of these Festivi made their way into the younger O'Keefe's contributions to the Seinfeld version of the show.

(As an aside, it's worth noting that Festivus is not the only major plot element of "The Strike" that viewers mistakenly believe is entirely fictional. On the show, George Costanza invents a fake charity called The Human Fund as a ruse to avoid giving Christmas gifts. There is an actual Human Fund charity that benefits at-risk youth in Cleveland, so be sure to consider that when making up your Festivus greeting cards.)

Truth, it seems, is stranger than Festivus -- but it does make for some seasonally surreal Geek Trivia.

The quibble of the week

If you uncover a questionable fact or debatable aspect of this week's Geek Trivia, just post it in the discussion area. Every week, yours truly will choose the best post from the assembled masses and discuss it in a future edition of Geek Trivia.

As this is a Classic Geek and folks are about to head off on holiday vacation, we bring you -- instead of our typical showcase of quibblery -- a chance to answer this question:

How would you use technology to improve the holidays?

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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?

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