“Seinfeld” gave pop culture a lot of things — Soup Nazi, The Strike and Bestivus… Festivus!
The iconic ’90s sitcom us the idea of “Festivus,” a secular holiday celebrated during the Christmas season that is mainly characterized by the raising of an aluminum pole. Its meaning is to stand as an alternative to the commercialization of the holidays.
“Seinfeld” writer Dan O’Keefe revealed how the idea of Festivus came to fruition. He explained that it was his father, who created the holiday.
“I mean this in the nicest way possible: My father was an undiagnosed bipolar, severe alcoholic who nonetheless was extremely high-functioning,” O’Keefe explained about his late father, who died in 2012. “[He] came from an extremely working-class background, which he was constantly trying to make sure no one knew about — and in so doing, he reminded everyone of it constantly.”
The screenwriter added that his father invented the holiday and “at one point he said it was an anniversary for his first date with my mom, but he also said a lot of crazy s–t so who knows?”
“It was a holiday that was unique to our family,” O’Keefe continued. “That was ostensibly a strength. And it didn’t have a set date [and] in real life it could just happen whenever the f–k he felt like it, or was extremely hungover and wanted to jump-start his synapses. In one year, there were two for some reason; one year, there were none. You never knew when [Festivus] was coming.”
The pseudo-holiday is usually celebrated on Dec. 23 and was first introduced in the 1997 episode “The Strike.” The show featured a Festivus dinner, aluminum pole and traditions such as the “Airing of Grievances” and “Feats of Strength.”
O’Keefe also described how the Airing of Grievances practice came about in the episode and its origin. He joked that it was simply “a very formalized setting for yelling” at him and his siblings by his dad. “Yeah, growing up, myself and my two brothers were in a form of child abuse that yet wasn’t recognized as such by the state of New York, induced to perform seasonal rituals,” he said.
The Airing of Grievances was a tradition seen in the episode where each person tells their friends and family of all the instances where they annoyed them during the year.
O’Keefe then recalled a time where his colleagues tried to convince him to write Festivus into the show. His co-workers brought him to a diner and they said to him, “Jerry [Seinfeld] thinks this is hilarious and we want to put it in the show.’”
He added that he “tried to dissuade them as convincingly as I could.”
“So I figure, f–k it, if this has to be smeared onto the world, that I might as well be the hand doing the smearing,” O’Keefe joked.