Before Christmas Comes Festivus (for the Rest of Us)

PHOTO Seinfeld character, Frank Costanza shown here, explains "Fesivus," on Seinfeld in 1997.
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Christmas is around the corner, but for the rest of us, there is Festivus.

In 1997, "Seinfeld" introduced the alternative holiday, celebrated today, and sparked a counterculture phenomenon. Events in cities such as New York, Washington, D.C., and Denver fete the festival, bringing together both "Seinfeld" fans and revelers of the ridiculous.

How did Festivus come to be? It's best to let its fictional creator, Frank Costanza (Jerry Stiller), explain:

"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!"

The doll was destroyed. But the elder Costanza saw its end as a boon: "Out of that, a new holiday was born! A Festivus for the rest of us!"

Indeed. Festivus is a takeoff on Christmas, but what it borrows from that Christian celebration, it batters. Instead of a Christmas tree, there's a metal pole. Instead of gifts, there are grievances. And instead of fireside cuddle time, there are feats of strength, which result in no-holds-barred rounds of wrestling with fellow Festivus followers.

It may sound outlandish, but the holiday has roots in reality. According to a 2004 New York Times article, Festivus was invented by the father of Daniel O'Keefe, a writer on "Seinfeld." When O'Keefe told his colleagues how his family celebrated the holidays, they couldn't resist turning the tradition into TV.

This week, online searches for "festivus pole," "festivus activities," "festivus cards" and "how to celebrate festivus" spiked. For the latter, just follow the example of Festivus' founder: Procure a pole, set the table, tell your family how you really feel and pummel them to the ground. (Need a cry to rally the troops? Try his: "Let's rumble!")

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