After Hours

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

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...

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