In the 13 years since Festivus was introduced on an episode of "Seinfeld," the made-up Dec. 23 "holiday for the rest of us" has moved well beyond the confines of American TV reruns to become globally recognized.
While mostly noted today among Americans, Festivus was also inspiring a number of tweets from around the world and for much of the day was a top 10 most-tweeted phrase among tweeters worldwide.
In England, Alice Rooney experienced not a Christmas miracle, but rather a Festivus miracle amid the snow that has clogged highways and brought airports to a standstill. "Making it from Bristol to London on public transport in the current climate surely qualifies as an early festivus miracle," she tweeted Dec. 20.
Even in Indonesia the fake holiday was noted today, with Haddy Kustaman tweeting: "Festivus Is Here: Time To Air Grievances." And in Australia, Mik Morley tweeted: "Look out world, the countdown to #Festivus has begun, and I has some grievances..."
Mr. Morley and Mr. Kustaman are referring to the Festivus Airing of Grievances ceremony, which, according to Festivusweb.com, is when you tell your family how they've disappointed you over the past year. This event is followed by the Feats of Strength, when the head of the household must be wrestled and pinned to the floor. Festivus is also marked with a special dinner, the erection of a bare Festivus pole, and, sometime, miracles.
At least one miracle was seen today in Canada. Miguel Yetman today tweeted from Winnipeg, Manitoba: "If my honey shows up today it will be a festivus miracle." She later tweeted: "The honey has arrived! It's a festivus miracle!"
Beyond Twitter, the holiday inspired Ben & Jerry's to develop a Festivus ice cream flavor in 2000, and the Midwest cities of Milwaukee, Springfield, and Green Bay have in past years erected Festivus poles.
"Seinfeld" popularized Festivus, but sitcom creator Jerry Seinfeld did not invent the secular holiday. According to a 2004 article in The New York Times, the actual inventor of Festivus was Dan O'Keefe, whose son was a writer on "Seinfeld" and introduced the idea for a plot line.
Mr. O'Keefe said that the first Festivus – the name itself just popped into his head – was actually a celebration of the anniversary of his first date with his wife. It evolved after they had children, as his son, Daniel, explains in the book "The Real Festivus: The True Story Behind America's Favorite Made-Up Holiday."
"He wanted a holiday mostly that wasn't political or religious in nature, but based on family," Daniel told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2005. "It was very different from the TV holiday. We streamlined it for laughs."
In the TV episode titled "The Strike," George Costanza's father, Frank, explains the fake holiday's fake origins:
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."
Kramer: "What happened to the doll?"
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."
Costanza: "She was."
And thus a new holiday was created for the whole world, it seems. And why not? Festivus wouldn't be the oddest holiday on the calendar. In fact, it already falls right between the actually recognized American holidays of National Date-Nut Bread Day and National Egg Nog Day.
The fact that Festivus has caught the world's attention is probably due to the comedic styling of Mr. Seinfeld.
The Monitor caught on early to his genius in highlighting the absurdity and humor in everyday moments. In 1987, two years before Seinfeld and Larry David launched the sitcom they described as "about nothing," the Monitor was already laughing at Seinfeld's stand-up comedy.
"Jerry Seinfeld has an easy, laconic style – observational rather than joke-cracking. His material is the minutiae of life," wrote the Monitor's correspondent Catherine Foster, noting the following lines:
- On candy at the movies: You know you are [getting ripped off] when they have it in that glass case; the jewelry case. I go up to the guy: "I'd like to see something in a Milk Dud if I could. Nothing too garish, of course.'' Sometimes I will take out one Milk Dud and put it on the black velvet. "Oh, boy, that's a beauty. Honey, what do you think?''
- On dogs: Sitting up in the front seat of the car, that's the ultimate dog experience. You ever take your dog out on a Saturday afternoon? You've got nothing to do, he's generally free. He's not going to say, 'Gee, I had that bone scheduled for today. I could push it into Monday, but then I'd be backed up on the rawhide chew toys. I have no free time open.' Dogs go with you anywhere, and as soon as they get up in the front seat with you in the car, it's the only situation where his head and your head are the same height. ... He sees his friends and says, "Don't bark at me now; I'm with people! [sotto voce:] I will talk with you about it later.''
- On his parents' move to Florida: They didn't want to move to Florida, but that's the law. You get to a certain age, you're forced to move to Florida, whether you like it or not. They have leisure police that drag you down there. They pull up to your house in a golf cart with a light on the top: "Ok, Pops, get the clubs, let's go. Drop the snow shovel right there, just drop it."
Here's a recap of the Seinfeld episode introducing Festivus to the greater world: