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Five Things You Need to Know About Festivus

Don't make us challenge you in a Feats of Strength—read up on Festivus history and facts.

Don’t you ever long for a time when you can say exactly what’s on your mind—maybe get some things bothering you off of your chest—and end the night with an old-fashioned wrestling match?

In this season of family togetherness, tensions can run high amid the cheerfulness. May we suggest you set aside an evening to celebrate Festivus?

What’s Festivus, you ask? Just take everything about the Christmas season—glad tidings, goodwill toward men, etc.—and throw it out the window.

Festivus was the brainchild of Dan O’Keefe, but it didn’t evolve into a cultural touchstone until his son, Daniel, became a writer for a little show called Seinfeld. And out of that, new holiday was born: a Festivus for the rest of us!

Here are five things you need to know about the anti-Yuletide celebration:

1. Festivus only demands two things of its celebrants: the Airing of Grievances and the Feats of Strength. The night kicks off with the Airing of Grievances, a time for you to tell your loved ones all of the ways they’ve disappointed you over the past year. Don’t hold back—Frank Costanza wouldn’t.

The rest of the night is up to you until it’s time to end Festivus. Then comes the Feats of Strength. Festivus isn’t over until someone pins the host in a no-holds barred wrestling match. Let the righteous indignation of the Airing of Grievances fuel your Feats.

2. Put away the Christmas tree, take down the lights. Festivus has only one symbol, the mighty aluminum pole. Not only does a pole have a very high strength to weight ratio, but it doesn’t have all that distracting tinsel.

3. Although Seinfeld made Festivus into the belligerent holiday we know today, it didn’t start that way. Dan O’Keefe created the holiday with his wife 1966 and it progressed as the family added sons. By the 1970s, the O’Keefes held regular Festivi, which usually revolved around a theme, they told The New York Times. Then it got weird. The O’Keefes aired grievances (at life general, not usually about each other), sang songs about a black pig in German, wrestled and recorded the whole thing.

The younger O’Keefe mined his family’s strange tradition to twist Festivus into a story for Seinfeld in 1997. Daniel O’Keefe also wrote a book, The Real Festivus, about the holiday’s origins.

4. Don’t call Festivus a fake holiday. People (besides the O’Keefes) began celebrating it in real life after the Seinfeld episode aired. Take the Festivus pole in Washington, DC, where people aired grievances on Post-It notes. (Sample grievance: Leggings are not pants.) Former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle set up a Festivus pole in the executive residence in 2005, and Denver, CO, is home to the Festivus Film Festival. And there are countless private parties held each year—a true Festivus miracle.

5. Don’t feel boxed in to celebrating Festivus on any one day. Some people will tell you Festivus is Dec. 23, and it’s true that in the Seinfeld episode, Kramer asked for the 23rd off to celebrate. But the O’Keefes first held Festivus in February and picked a random evening of the year thereafter. If you have a grievance to air, we say go for it whenever the mood strikes. Happy Festivus! 

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