Saturday, December 11, 2010

Festivus: A Festivus for the Restuvus!

Alternate Title: Why I Celebrate Festivus!

With every passing year, my fondness of Festivus seems to grow. Most people think the obvious in response to the revelation that I prefer Festivus to Christmas; I saw it on Seinfeld and Seinfeld is one of my favourite all-time television shows, so of course I would have a certain adherence to the made-up holiday. But over a decade after the Seinfeld episode "The Strike" aired, I like the holiday even more. I thought I would take the time to explain just why that is.

Festivus, though viewed by many as a joke, has a great deal of significance to me. I see Christmas as twisted, nonsensical holiday. While the religious aspects of Christmas are important to many, I'm anything but a believer. The whole "born to a virgin" superhero bit is far too hard to swallow on its own, let alone the simple facts that if he did exist then he would have likely been born sometime in early fall instead of December 25th. That being said, I understand and appreciate the importance of faith...I just choose to have faith in more earthly concepts. Because of this, the religious component of Christmas is meaningless to me. I don't want to go to church or pray or sing psalms. Sorry, Jebus!

Religion aside, the worst offender of the Christmas season is how it has become just another commercial holiday. When you're a kid, Christmas is magical. A lazy fat-ass with a pedophile beard and a sparkly sled contorts himself through your chimney or keyhole to leave you a wealth of presents for no reason other than because you were "good" during the year. When you're young, the sheer insanity of the story is completely overlooked. To kids, it's just an obese old man who showers you with gifts. It's awesome. But then comes the day...that fateful day. The day you find out Santa Claus isn't real. The smart kids find out through logical deduction and evidence. The stupid kids are told by parents or peers. The smartest kids, such as me, find out early that Santa is a lie, but pretend to still believe to get extra presents until their parents become fed up and tell them. But no matter what, there comes a time when the gravy train stops.
When you grow up, the commercialism of Christmas becomes a devil on your back. The holiday isn't about giving as so many would describe it. No, Christmas is about exchanging. It's fun to give...well it's stressfully fun...trying to find that perfect gift for a loved one can be difficult but rewarding if you're successful. However, no person reading this can deny the awkward embarrassment of giving a $10 gift to a person and having that person give you a $100 gift. And no person can deny thinking of the inequality of the gifts either (if they are the ones giving the more valuable one). I always ask to establish a gift budget with a person with whom I plan to exchange gifts. Ah, the magic of giving kind of falls apart here.
The Christmas holiday (as well as other holidays) is about give and take these days. This makes me ask the question "why bother giving and receiving gifts in the first place?" Why not just go out and buy yourself a present and say it's from a friend or loved one? Why not just keep your money if there's nothing you need? Why be so stressed out during the holiday season and rack up a huge VISA bill just because society says you should? Gifting has lost all meaning to me when it comes to Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day, etc. It's become a required activity, which kind of defeats the whole point.

Take away religious and commercial aspects of Christmas and what do you have? Friends, family, and loved ones. Spending time with those you care about and reconnecting with them as well. Appreciating who and what you have. That part of the holidays is important to me, but becomes so drowned out by the other concepts above.

Enter Festivus. A Festivus for the Restuvus.

Festivus is brilliant in that it removes the religion and the commercialism of the holiday season. In a perfect Festivus world, there would be no gifts, no praising of gods, and no stress. Just good times with those who are important to you.

If you've seen the Seinfeld episode "The Strike," then you may be laughing at my argument. There were some very weird aspects of Festivus that border on insane. Let's briefly look at the different ideas that were shown in the episode, so I may explain which I include in my own celebration and which I do not.

The Festivus Pole

A six or seven foot aluminum pole erected (giggity) in place of a Christmas tree. A bland replacement, Frank Costanza said that its benefits were that it required no decoration (as he found tinsel distracting), and it had an excellent height-to-weight ratio. Say what you will, but Christmas trees are just awful! Sure, they look pretty, but the real trees cause no end of trouble, from the friggin' needles getting EVERYWHERE to the dog drinking up the water and the cat swallowing tinsel and dying horribly. And all trees, real or fake, share the drag of having to remove all the decorations and lights after the holidays are over. Ugh! Christmas shouldn't be a drag. The pole is up (giggity) in two minutes flat, and down again in the same time. Convenience is nothing short of a Festivus miracle!

The Airing of Grievances

As long-time friends and people new to my blog are aware, I'm a big fan of the Airing of Grievances. I don't like holding my tongue...I like telling people just what I'm thinking. If someone is being a total retard, I think they should become aware.Unfortunately, in this day and age, people would rather live in a bubble of denial, and no one appreciates my bluntness frank nature. It's insanity made sanity simply because so many people have the same habit. Therefore, people can't handle the truth (imagine me doing my best Jack Nicholson impression) so I vent my frustrations in a next best way. The Airing of Grievances allows me to do that. My "policy" is simple. I give an honest description of the problem(s) I have with a person and how it makes me feel. I just don't use names. This spares the target embarrassment of being "outed" to others who read my yearly grievances. It also has the humourous side-effect of having people to whom the grievances are not aimed to assume it is about them. It's a fun and relieving way to get out some of the things that have bothered me or pissed me off during the year.

The Festivus Dinner

A straightforward meal that is essentially the same as a Christmas meal or any other holiday meal for that matter. I have yet to host a Festivus dinner due to space constraints and cost. However, there's always a family Christmas dinner to be a part of. And since a dinner is a dinner, it can be preceeded by "Festivus" or "Christmas." It's the same thing. It's an opportunity to spend time with loved ones, which as I said before, is the real point of the holidays, isn't it?

The Feats of Strength

Following the dinner, Festivus participants must engage in what is called a "feats of strength." In short, two attendees of the Festivus dinner (one being the household head) must wrestle and attempt to pin one another. In "The Strike," Frank Costanza told his son George that Festivus would not be over until George pinned him. Therefore, Festivus continues until the head of the household is pinned in such a wrestling match.
No, I do not include the feats of strength in my Festivus celebrations. It's a bit too weird...even for me.

Festivus Miracles

What's a miracle? To some it's a bearded man in pajamas walking over water without breaking surface tension. To others it is a 100% recovery from a terminal illness. To me, it's getting through the Festivus and Christmas season without killing someone. So yeah, I believe in Festivus miracles. If you've been near me during the holiday season and lived, you should believe in them too!

Over a decade later, I'm still in what I call a "transition phase" from Christmas to Festivus. One cannot simply turn one's back on Christmas cold turkey. Mmmm, turkey. I have to respect that friends and family love Christmas and celebrate it, and it's unfair for me to request that they change their long-loved beliefs for me. So Festivus is currently a melding of Festivus ideals and Christmas habits. Sure, I throw up the Festivus pole every year (dare I giggity AGAIN?) but I adorn the base with presents. Sure, I don't decorate the pole, but I do string gold tinsel around my door (there was tinsel around the patio door in the Costanza home, which was odd since Frank declared he found it distracting). I also put out a large (maybe even "life-size") Rudolph plush toy next to the pole so to put Christmas lovers at ease when they visit. I also do gift exchanging even though I dislike it. 'Tis the season of giving, so I may as well give some tolerance.

I do ask that friends and loved ones please come to accept the importance of Festivus to me. I understand it seems so silly, but if you consider the traditions of any holiday and think about them objectively, all holidays are just as silly. It's not just a fad to me.

Above all, I wish you all a Happy Festivus and best wishes in the New Year. Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time to get out my pole.


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