First Script Read: November 20, 1997
Filmed: November 24, 1997
Aired: December 18, 1997
Nielsen rating: 20.2
Audience share: 33
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writers: Dan O’Keefe, Alec Berg, and Jeff Schaffer [O'Keefe's family celebrated a real Festivus when he was growing up, the gist of which Berg and Schaffer borrowed for this episode.]
I have a friend who throws an annual Festivus party every year in early December. He rents out a bar and holds an ugly sweater competition as well as a few other games. It bares very little resemblance to Frank Costanza's celebration, which involves an aluminum pole, an airing of grievances, and feats of strength. My friend's version just seems like a non-religious excuse to get a bunch of friends together for a party.
If its not the details of Festivus that continue to resonate, perhaps its the attitude. For Americans feeling uncomfortable with a month of steady Christian imagery and message, Frank offers "Festivus for the rest of us!" It's safely secular. And it's anti-commercial, as Frank's description of the holiday's origin reveals: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 upon him, I realized there had to be another way!
KRAMER: What happened to the doll?
FRANK: It was destroyed.
Certainly an ironic celebration of Festivus such as that organized by my friend involves a thumbing of nose at both traditional religion as well as the all-consuming influence of the Christmas season. But the actual practice of Festivus itself depicted in this episode captures the essence of the entire series of Seinfeld. Airing of grievances? Feats of strength? What do Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer do every week other than complain about the minutiae of their lives and come up with schemes to get a leg up on those around them?
Festivus survives along with so many other Seinfeld ideas because it celebrates the attitude of the show. During Festivus, not only is it okay to complain about others, not only is it acceptable to demonstrate superiority over others, but it is celebrated. The Seinfeld quartet may find Frank's holiday insane, but if they looked a little closer, they'd realize it was their perfect holiday.