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virtual advent 2018: festivus with a side of translation FAIL

Welcome back to yet another installment of sprite’s Virtual Advent 2018!

Today we will take a quick journey to the land of Festivus, the anti-commercial made-up holiday that falls on December 23. It’s the product of a 1997 episode of Seinfeld. It’s best explained by watching this compilation clip from “The Strike,” the episode that started it all.

The basic gist of Festivus is that it’s a holiday that eschews the normal tropes of Christmas. It evolved out of a fight over an in-demand toy at a local store, after which point Frank Costanza decided he would drop Christmas and create “a Festivus for the rest of us!”

Rather than a tree, there’s an aluminum pole (chosen for “its high strength-to-weight ratio,” according to Mr. Costanza). Instead of singing carols, celebrants engage in feats of strength (which typically ended up with George crying). And rather than reflect on the good that happened over the past year, there is an airing of grievances over the family dinner, where members call each other out on how disappointed they are in each others’ behavior over the year.

If this sounds like typical Seinfeld fare, it is. That said, it evolved out of the family history of one of the show’s writers, Dan O’Keefe, whose father made up the holiday back in the mid-1960s. While originally a celebration of the anniversary of the elder O’Keefe’s first date with his future wife, the celebration was given a new spin when featured on the NBC sitcom. That’s when December 23 was decided upon as the date of Festivus as observed by folks not named Dan O’Keefe.

Rather than remain a bit of “nothing” like most Seinfeld gags, Festivus has been adopted all over the world as a way to cleanse oneself from the bad aspects of the ending year. In the Adams Morgan neighborhood in the District of Columbia, it was tradition for many years to celebrate Festivus with an aluminum foil clad lamppost, and a grievance board taking over the community announcement kiosk at the intersection of Columbia Road NW and 18th Street.

I see Festivus as a necessary grounding tonic to some of the overt commercialism and romanticized, manufactured sentimentality that seems to be ever-present during modern Christmas celebrations. That’s not to say I’m a humbug, but it’s good to air out the things that annoy in order to start the new year tabula rasa.

And besides: it gives you something to celebrate on December 23. Otherwise, it’s just Christmas Eve eve.

So that’s about it…. right?


In order to add a little bit of levity to this post (it is me, after all), I’m posting one of Malinda Kathleen Reese‘s excellent Translator Fails. This year, she’s taken on “White Christmas,” the Irving Berlin classic. In doing so, the song morphs into an ode to white… wine.

She also released this medley of various holiday songs that had a similarly absurd outcome:

Enjoy – and Happy Crimble to all!

This post is part of sprite’s Virtual Advent Tour 2018. Click here for more info.

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