Thursday, 10 August 2006

Festivus; or, The Other Holiday Born of High Modernism [x-posted from the Valve] While noodling around Wikipedia last night, I discovered that not only did I share my birthday with a visionaries (Nostradamus, Joseph Smith), politicians (Helmut Schmidt, “Dan Quayle’s Brain”), famous singers (Bruce Hornsby, Victoria Williams, Eddie Vedder) and a Corey (Haim)—but that it falls on Festivus. Reading this detailed account of the origin of and rituals associated with a fictional holiday, I learned, to my surprise, that not only is it not a fictional holiday, but that it’s based on a work of high modernism. Can you guess which one from the following description? (Video is also available.) After learning of the holiday from Jerry and Elaine, Kramer calls George’s father. The elder Costanza explains the holiday’s origin (1:16): Frank: Kramer, I got your message. I haven’t celebrated Festivus in years! What is your interest? Kramer: Well, just tell me everything, huh? Frank: Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reach for the last one they had—but so did another man. As I rained blows opon him, I realized there had to be another way! Kramer: What happened to the doll? Frank: It was destroyed. But out of that, a new holiday was born. “A Festivus for the rest of us!" And its traditions (1:47): Frank: And at the Festivus dinner, you gather your family around, and you tell them all the ways they have disappointed you over the past year. Kramer: Is there a tree? Frank: No. Instead, there’s a pole. It requires no decoration. I find tinsel distracting. Later, Frank and Kramer arrive at the coffee shop carrying a pole and a tape recorder. They approach George and Jerry (3:09): Kramer: Well, Happy Festivus. George: What is that? Is that the pole? Frank: George, Festivus is your heritage—it’s part of who you are. George: (sulking) That’s why I hate it. Kramer: There’s a big dinner Tuesday night at Frank’s house—everyone’s invited. Frank: George, you’re forgetting how much Festivus has meant to us all. I brought one of the casette tapes. (Franks pushes play, George as a child celebrating Festivus is heard) Frank: Read that poem. George: (complaining) I can’t read it. I need my glasses! Frank: You don’t need glasses, you’re just weak! You’re weak! Estelle: Leave him alone! Frank: Alright, George. It’s time for the feats of strength. Figured it out? The answer (and overlong-but-still-inadequate discussion of its significance) is below the fold. Everyone who said Krapp’s Last Tape raise your hand. Figured as much. According to Wikipedia: [Seinfeld writer Daniel O’Keefe’s] father, Daniel O’Keefe [Sr.], had discovered the Festivus holiday in a book that outlined obscure (mostly European) holidays published in 1966; the book described many of the features later included in the Seinfeld episode. The father was inspired by the Samuel Beckett play Krapp’s Last Tape, whose protagonist tapes himself speaking at different times in his life. The original Airing of Grievances was spoken into a tape recorder, and the O’Keefe family retains some of the...

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