Frank Costanza: "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 realized there had to be another way."
Cosmo Kramer: "What happened to the doll?"
Frank Costanza: "It was destroyed. But out of that a new holiday was born: a Festivus for the rest of us!"
Kramer: "That must have been some kind of doll."
Frank Costanza: "She was."
December is that magical time of the year when everyone endures the misery of Vitamin D deficiency and poor joint circulation. It’s a special time, when people suffer through the process of buying gifts for people who they don’t even like. Plus, unless you’re an orphan, you probably have to spend some time with your family. By now, it’s fair to assume that your family is crazy. My family, though, may very well be the looniest of the loons, because they actually celebrate Festivus.
Frank Costanza of Seinfeld fame invented Festivus as a means of expressing his frustration with commercialism and the pressures of Christmas, and through the success of Seinfeld it became a pop culture phenomenon. It wasn’t a conscious effort to start celebrating Festivus in my family, it just sort of degenerated into that over the years, probably brought on by the inexhaustibly sweet, but completely insane, Normie, our live-in great-aunt whose presence was usually marked by shameless nudity. In her final years, she refused to dress herself. Normie would often just drape clothes on top of her naked body while she sat in the La-Z-Boy, watching Coronation Street while talking about the underrated health benefits of Pilsbury cookies.
By the time everyone was of age, Christmas had been reduced to an excuse for a three-day long bender. I learned to play beer pong with chocolate milk at the age of 12: a mistake I wish upon nobody as chugging artificially flavoured dairy can only lead to a foul storm of vomit. I also remember sitting around with my belligerent cousins, watching the fire channel, cheering every time the mystery fellow stoked the log.
These kinds of vapid Christmas celebrations led my family to discover Festivus, which led to some major changes. For example, during a Festivus celebration, there is absolutely no room for a fireplace. Our version of the fireplace, the glorious Festivus pole, is just a bungee cord held up by two metal poles; unadorned and unapologetic.
Not only is Festivus about the unmistakable beauty of a metal pole, and the destruction of Christmas, there’s also the crucial element of competition that makes Festivus so enjoyable. It really doesn’t take very long for our Festivus celebration/bender to transform into loud debates of who is stronger than the other. There is no question that my uncle Mike is the strongest. He can effortlessly put both of my cousins, Ian and Colin, into a headlock at the same time.
Mike is the greatest man and the family’s largest proponent of Festivus. Notice his overgrown, Sandy Cohen eyebrows. The mysteriously stained shirt. He’s doing pretty well for himself, considering he lives in Ajax, Ontario: the breeding ground for skater dudes and criminals.
In the early years we would surrender to the requests of my extremely Catholic grandmother, drunkenly attending mass as if we were pre-drinking for a Guelph homecoming football game (i.e. something that cannot be attended sober). The excessive drinking naturally lead to feats of strength competitions which included lifting the head of the family in the air. My aunt Paula, known as Sippy McDickie for her weak alcohol tolerance, was usually chosen. Poor Paula. All she ever wants is to escape Festivus with a minimal enough buzz to be respectful at midnight mass.
One of the central tenants of the secularist Festivus is a disgust for the commercialization of Christmas, and so, the gift giving system between the two sides of my family was streamlined years ago. To avoid any disappointment, everyone gets the same gift. 2009 marked the first year of universal gift giving. Everyone received a felt Toronto Maple Leafs hat, which they were forced to wear in public, inciting my female cousin Jules to claim that our family’s “third chromosome was showing.” Obviously, in 2010 everyone got Elvis wigs. Last year, Mike outdid himself with presents: personalized spandex fetish suits for his fully-grown children. A Festivus miracle! The spandex allows maximum flexibility for so many fantastic Festivus activities. They’re especially ideal for the feats of strength competition. I wanted one so fucking badly, but alas, he’s not my dad.
Frank Costanza: “I got a lot of problems with you people! And now, you're gonna hear about it. You, Kruger. My son tells me your company stinks! You couldn't smooth a silk sheet if you had a hot date with a babe...I lost my train of thought."
Traditionally, Festivus commences with the celebrating family expressing their disappointment in one another, for their actions throughout their course of the year. Unlike the Costanza Festivus, which begins with the airing of such grievances, we usually save ours until the family has reached a maximum level of belligerence, when alcohol must be used as the scapegoat for such violent proclamations of dissatisfaction towards one another, only to be forgotten the next day.
We’ve also introduced specialized themes to the Festivus celebration. When Patrick Swayze died in 2009, my uncle was devastated. Patrick Swayze is, and always will be, his idol. That year, my uncle dedicated the Festivus celebration to the memory of Patrick Swayze, which basically just turned into a Road House holiday. My uncle dressed as Swayze and we watchedRoad House on loop, just so we could see Swayze beat everyone to a pulp to the soundtrack of Jeff Healy. My persevering memory of that evening is of my grandmother sitting on the couch, clenched teeth, hiding under a blanket in terror as she watched everyone take swings at one another.
So this holiday season, when you’re eating turkey and tabulating how many hours of your life you’ve wasted watching A Christmas Story on TBS, or eating Chinese food and seeing three painstaking, brain melting hours of The Hobbit in theatres, remember you can always abandon the clusterfuck of commercialism and hop on over to the dark side of Festivus: a loud, macho, vaguely communist, and thinly veiled celebration of alcoholism, for the rest of us.
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