The 4 Lessons Of Festivus

What modern holiday made its debut on a popular television show in the late 1990s? Seinfeld devotees know the answer. Festivus!

Today, Festivians around the globe commonly mark the holiday on December 23. The celebration comes with a catchy tagline, "Festivus for the rest of us," and little else. Yes, it is a holiday about nothing. Yet, for many, like me, it is enough. Festivus famously allows people to make of it what they will.

In my home, Festivus has become a holiday fixture. We view the day as a little oasis of fun amid the holiday hubbub. In case you are considering a Festivus celebration, here are four Festivus lessons that may either persuade or dissuade you.

Lesson One: Anyone Can Create a Holiday
Introduced on the Dec. 17, 1997 Seinfeld episode titled, "The Strike," Frank Costanza recalled Christmas shopping to buy a doll for little George. In a crowded store, Frank has a dust-up with another man over a doll. He thinks, "There has to be a better way!" Frank creates Festivus, which brings together family and friends for an evening meal during which there were raised voices, petty arguments and the airing of grievances, both real and imagined. Here's how Frank opens Festivus dinner, "Welcome, newcomers. The tradition of Festivus begins with the airing of grievances; I got a lot of problems with you people! And now you're gonna hear about it!" What a great opener and one that can be used year-after-year. The pinnacle of the celebration involves wrestling the head of the household until he or she is, yes, pinned. At this point, the gathering is concluded. Everyone goes home, vowing never again to attend Festivus.

Lesson Two: Festivus is Not About Fancy Decorations
Those who celebrate Festivus, know it's not about having the biggest, shiniest aluminum poll or the best decor. It's about family, friends and holiday rituals. Sure we might complain when dad shouts, "I'll get the pole out of the crawlspace!" as Frank famously did, but holidays are about the traditions and, let's face it, not all of them are good. The best news is that you can shape Festivus as you like, since there is no right, wrong or even tinsel, because tinsel, as we all know, is distracting.

Lesson Three: A Charity is Only as Good as its Best Slogan
Haven't we all experienced it? The holiday moment when we're asked to make a donation to (fill in the blank)? We may not want to give to this particular cause but, on the other hand, we don't want to be judged by others. And, there will be judgment if we fail to contribute. An ingenious solution, devised by George Costanza, who resorted to "pulling a Whatley," with his creation of "The Human Fund. Money for People." Was the charity plausible? You be the judge but remember George almost got away with it. In the show, Jerry Seinfeld summed up The Human Fund best, "It has a certain understated stupidity." Well said, fellow Festivian.

Lesson Four: You Can Eke a Miracle Out of Almost Anything
In the Seinfeld episode, Kramer enhances the holiday by twice proclaiming, "It's a Festivus miracle!" If you embrace Festivus, you will no doubt experience its miracles. In my family, we've witnessed many miracles, both big and small. Festivus miracles have ranged from finding the perfect puffy shirt to enjoying a yummy chocolate bobka to a prolonged, but surprisingly interesting, discussion about things that shrink. My all-time favorite miracle: Scoring a table for four at a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day. Service was slow, and a waiter dropped a tray of food, but all-in-all it was truly a miracle.

If you want something fun to blend into your holiday mix, consider Festivus. It may be a slightly twisted holiday, but is there anything wrong with that?

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