Always Festivus and Never Christmas

This season calls for reconciliation, not rage and resentment.

This piece was adapted from Russell Moore’s newsletter. Subscribe here.

In my much younger years, I celebrated Festivus. This was not by choice. I was working at a place where every year, at a celebratory holiday party, we always knew there was one guy who would spend the entire time “airing grievances” at the rest of us. One of my coworkers would say, “Are you ready for Festivus this year?”

He was, of course, referencing the famous storyline on the old television comedy Seinfeld, in which George Costanza’s father Frank celebrated his own made-up holiday, complete with an aluminum pole, feats of strength, and of course, the airing of grievances. I would always laugh at my coworker’s joke, because, after all, Festivus was funny—the product of Jerry Seinfeld or some writer’s comedic imagination. Except that it wasn’t.

The Daily Beast recorded an episode of its podcast, Fever Dreams, in which former Seinfeld writer Dan O’Keefe explained the real-life origins of Festivus. (Beware of profanity in the episode.) He said the holiday was not fictional, at least not in his house growing up, and it was anything but funny.
O’Keefe said his father, an editor at Reader’s Digest and “an undiagnosed bipolar, severe alcoholic,” invented Festivus. He did it with a clock in a bag hung on the wall. The famous aluminum pole wasn’t part of it, but the Airing of Grievances definitely was.
“It was just a very formalized setting for yelling at us,” he told Fever Dreams. “Yeah, growing up, myself and my two brothers were in a form of child abuse that yet wasn’t recognized as such by the state of New York, included to perform seasonal …

Continue reading…