Festivus, the polar opposite of Christmas, has had an interesting journey, from real to fictitious to real – it falls on December 23

How often does fiction turn into fact? Sure, it happens in the scientific circles, but in culture a phenomenon like that is practically unheard of. However, on December 18, 1997, “Festivus” popped out of TV sets across America and became a part of our reality. A new holiday was born.

Festivus is a fictitious holiday that was made popular by the American TV show Seinfeld. Festivus is the polar opposite of Christmas, an anti-holiday, in the Bizarro world Festivus would be Christmas. Christmas is for the good, wholesome families but what of the weird, dysfunctional families who find the fanfare associated with Christmas too overwhelming? Festivus comes to their rescue.

Festivus has had an interesting journey, from real to fictitious to real. In the TV world, Frank Costanza (a character on popular 90s comedy Seinfeld) decided to make up his own holiday. The defining moment came when, Frank Costanza said on the show: “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 realised there had to be another way.” And out of it a new holiday was born, ‘A Festivus for the rest of us’.

In the real world, Festivus was the brainchild of writer Dan O’Keefe; his family has been celebrating Festivus since 1966. His son Daniel, who was one of the writers of Seinfeld, made it a part of the popular culture by devoting a whole episode to it.

According to the Seinfeld episode, Festivus is celebrated on December 23. The celebrations include a dinner with the family (and new and unknown guests you met the same day). In place of a Christmas tree, a plain aluminum pole is placed in the living room.

During the Festivus dinner, in the words of Frank Costanza, the ritual of “airing of grievances” is observed in which “you gather your family around and tell ’em all the ways they have disappointed them in the past year.”

As Festivus rolls on, we come to the “Feats of Strength”. In this ritual a member is chosen and is required to defeat the head of the family in a wrestling match. “Feats of Strength” apparently also heralds the end of Festivus festivities. As hinted by Frank Costanza, “Until you pin me George, Festivus is not over, let’s rumble.”

The additions

One can’t help but notice Festivus rituals end a bit too soon, plus there is no alternative to Santa, or Rudolf, and no Festivus carols either. We asked some people to suggest ways to enhance the rituals and traditions.

“I’d like Charlie Sheen to come sliding down the chimney on Festivus Eve; somebody with Sheen track record can’t possibly expect you to be good and he can provide the music and the alcohol,” said Ankur Dubey, a TV freak.

And who should be on the guest list? “Well, apart from my family and friends and the weirdos I’ll pick up on the street; I’d like all the characters from Seinfeld and Two and a Half Men to be at my Festivus dinner — never a dull moment with them around,” said Joy Pillai. “And yes, I’d like Ashton Kutcher, Justin Beiber to come too, so that I can tell them all the ways in which they’ve disappointed me in the past year.”

So you don’t have to be good, you can get drunk with Charlie Sheen and you get to hurl abuses at Bieber. Festivus is giving Christmas some serious competition. It’s been 15 years since Festivus made a foray into public consciousness. It still continues to capture the imagination of Seinfeld fans. It’s a real hit on the internet.

Many webpages talk about all things Festivus. You can also purchase the Festivus aluminum pole online. Google is commemorating the holiday by putting an aluminum pole on the left side of your page every time you run a search on Festivus.

“Festivus” as George Costanza said “is all too real.” So those of you who belong to the Bizarro world, Happy Festivus, let the expletives fly and may the force be with you if you are chosen to perform the 'Feats of Strength'.