A Sandpoint Festivus

By Kaleb Keaton
Reader Contributor

Seinfeld was a sitcom that took the ’90s by storm. It approached society with a unique look on the human condition and the behaviors to which we can relate on a comedic level, providing relief from the mundane nuances of culture with a refreshing, witty spin. 

Within its final season, an episode named “The Strike”’ aired, coming with it a made-up holiday dubbed Festivus, which was from staff writer Dan O’Keefe’s actual childhood. Essentially, Festivus was created as a way to have a holiday that was secular and not burdened by the commercialism of the holiday season. The bizarre traditions of Festivus fit well within the Seinfeld universe, and it wasn’t long before fans took it on as an opportunity to celebrate, each Dec. 23, the show and what it stands for (nothing). 

The author and friends participate in the Feats of Strength, “a barbartic ritual in which two combatants wrestle for superiority and dominance.” Courtesy photo.

Seinfeld has been off the air for some time, but with syndication and recent absorption via Netflix, it has found a resurgence in its fan base with Festivus being a significant cultural reference to this day.

My friends and I have been celebrating Festivus consistently for more than 20 years. It is an occasion that we look forward to and take seriously. Being born and raised in Sandpoint, tradition is something you learn at an early age. Unfortunately, with so much changing in Sandpoint and the world as of late, tradition is something that starts to get lost within the haziness of transition. In order to support our community and help those who currently feel lost in the mix, I’m presenting some tradition and insight on Festivus in hopes that it provides inspiration to partake in this cherished holiday.

The Aluminum Pole

Frank Costanza, Seinfeld’s father of Festivus, chose the aluminum pole as the symbol of Festivus because of its strength to weight ratio. Additionally, he found tinsel to be distracting. Much as the holiday itself, the pole represents a no-thrills approach to counter the excessive materialism we find during this season. Although seemingly simple, aluminum poles are not always the easiest to find. If needed in a pinch, a simple used toilet paper dowel wrapped in aluminum foil can be an effective symbol of “not putting much into this.”

Airing of Grievances

Forget the shallow, unauthentic gift exchange of materialistic rubbish. Do we really enjoy family and friends that much? Or for the most part, do they upset us in ways that others can’t? Let go of the facade, speak from the heart and tell them all the ways they have disappointed you over the past year. It’s great to get things off your chest, especially toward people you care about. It might be temporarily awkward, but with truth and bitterness out there, at least you don’t have to waste any more energy on feigned gratefulness.

Seinfeld Script Reading

If there’s one thing Festivus isn’t, it’s selfish. So why are you hogging it all to yourself? Take it to the streets going door to door. So many residents and businesses are harassed this time of year by obnoxious carolers who go around singing the same old song, making awkward eye contact with the poor schmucks who mistakenly answer the door. Festivus has a version of this that consists of doing the same thing except you read and act out Seinfeld scripts. It keeps things fresh, lively and best of all, it’s so much more entertaining for the audience.

Feats of Strength

Festivus ends with the Feats of Strength: a barbaric ritual in which two combatants wrestle for superiority and dominance. Until someone is deemed the victor by pinning their opponent, Festivus cannot come to a close. Usually, by this time, everyone is pretty sick of Festivus, so the onlookers will likely take sides and aggressively demand for a ceremonious end. I won’t lie — this event can get pretty ugly. A playful roll-around quickly becomes bloody noses and hurt feelings when pride is on the line. But hey, nothing says the holidays like physical altercation.

Festivus Miracles

Lastly, the most important thing to keep in mind are Festivus Miracles. Now, the word “miracle” itself tends to make the mind shift in unrealistic and eventually disappointing ways. If we reach exceedingly high in the miracle department (world peace, chronical illness cures, blah blah blah) we are also bound to be disappointed. Festivus Miracles simplifies the miracle notion and attaches it to far less exaggerated events. For instance, an ideal parking spot would be an appropriate Festivus Miracle. Perhaps acquiring a coupon that matches something on your grocery list. Such are the acts that one can’t help but notice on Dec. 23 that truly demonstrate the magic that comes with Festivus.

Even with this content presented, something to keep in mind behind the meaning of Festivus is this: There are no rules. Festivus is whatever you make it, with creativity at its heart. Above all, Festivus is an excuse to get together with the friends and family you may not get to see during the regular holidays. Spreading laughter and cheer in an awkward context can be the most liberating experience you ever encounter. Do yourself a favor Sandpoint — embrace the odd and go have yourself the best Festivus ever.

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