Festivus: The Holiday For the Rest of Us by Allen Salkin

TitleFestivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us
Author: Allen Salkin
Genre: non-fiction (holidays)
ISBN: 9780446606746
Length: 129 pages
Year Published: 2005
Source: borrowed from my old library
Rating: 5/5 (for what it was)
Reason for Reading: I love the old TV show Seinfeld, and ever since I saw the Festivus episode, I wanted to know a little more about it


Take Frosty behind the woodshed…the time has come for Festivus! The event celebrated by Frank Costanza (Jerry Stiller) on Seinfeld, where participants raise aluminum poles, compete in “feats of strenth” and undertake the “airing of grievances,” has transcended television. People are actually observing Festivus! In this side-splitting romp through the real world of Festivus, Allen Salkin meets Miss Festivus, tastes Festivus beer, and ponders the Festivus snail, showing how anyone with a little creativity–and a dash of Costanza–can celebrate a Happy Festivus!

My Thoughts: Well, this certainly was a funny book. But first, a little background on Festivus may be in order.

Festivus was made popular by Frank Costanza in the late 1980s-early 1990s sitcom Seinfeld. Essentially Frank made up the holiday because he didn’t like the commercialism focused on Christmas. Festivus is a real (secular) holiday created by Daniel O’Keefe, father of the younger Dan O’Keefe who was a writer for Seinfeld. But ever since the show, Festivus–celebrated officially on December 23rd–has grown in a large following of people who actually celebrate it.

My reason for reading this book was purely curiosity. I was curious to know just what goes into Festivus as it is in real life, not on Seinfeld. I am not sure if I would ever celebrate it, but it could be fun to have a Festivus party once, just to see how it goes. In reality, Festivus doesn’t replace a holiday, such as Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa, but is celebrated in addition to those holidays. As long as no one tries to take away my Christmas, I’d be okay 🙂

The “airing of grievances” would especially be fun to do with family or friends, so long as it is all kept in good humor. Essentially, this is when you tell people how they disappointed you throughout the year or even to tell embarrassing stories about yourself. I really liked some of the examples of how people air their grievances in real life:

At Petros Kolyva’s Festivus in Montreal, a dry-erase marker is tied to the refrigerator door. The grievances are scrawled on it throughout the night…”The fridge was instituted,” says Kolyvas, “because if we did air grievances face-to-face, it might get out of hand, and people might start fighting.”

Moving south, a group in Missouri asks everyone at their party to write down a grievance on a piece of paper and then stuff it inside the Festivus pole. At the end of the night, the pole, made of cardboard painted silver, is broken open like a pinata, papers spill out like candy, and the grievances are read aloud.

I mean, how can that not sound like a fun way to tease friends and family? 🙂

Interestingly enough, I found this book–the first non-fiction I’ve read all year and probably the only one I’m likely to read in 2010 (I don’t plan on reading another in the next 5 days)–to be very funny. Which I knew it would be, going into it 🙂 It was just a great way to see what some people do on a holiday I’ve never celebrated. I should mention that the “feats of strength” some people do are awesome! Thumb wrestling competitions, hold-your-head-submerged-in-ice-water-as-long-as-possible contests, etc. just sound like a good time with friends 😀

PS- I hope everyone had/is having a great holiday season!


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