Are you fed up with the relentless commercialization of the holiday season? Take heart: You’re not alone!
The late Jerry Stiller, in his iconic role as Seinfeld‘s Frank Costanza, explained the origin of his anti-consumerist celebration in a now-infamous 1997 episode titled “The Strike“:
“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 … Out of that, a new holiday was born. A Festivus for the rest of us!”
On the surface Festivus — celebrated annually on Dec. 23 — looks like any other family gathering for the holidays, but the details make it special. They include a Festivus pole instead of a tree, the Feats of Strength — in which a younger relative attempts to pin the family patriarch — and the Airing of Grievances:
“At the Festivus dinner, you gather your family around, and you tell them all the ways they have disappointed you over the past year,” Frank explains.
Festivus is completely absurd, which is what makes it fun, but it’s also a strong reaction against the all-encompassing commercialization of the holiday season. Every year it seems like the retail industry nudges the season a little further back. At first it was a few weeks, then the end of Thanksgiving marked the beginning of the holidays.
Now it’s not unusual to see lights, wreaths and images of Santa popping up in early November, setting the tone for more sales, more gifts, and more spending.
Of course if you’re reading this site, you’re a cat lover and you’re probably intimately familiar with the non-stop meowing of a dissatisfied cat. Not enough food, not enough snacks, not enough space on the bed, not enough scritches. To a cat, the Airing of Grievances can take place on any day of the year — and it often does. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be a special edition of it on Festivus.
Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to sit down to the Festivus table and get berated by Bud. I’m told his list of grievances is quite long this year.