Sunday, November 27, 2005

Remember before Festivus got so over-commercialized? This once pleasant, anti-holiday joke has become exactly that which it was started to protest.

Festivus was introduced to the American public on a Seinfeld episode back in 1997. Frank Costanza (George's father) invented the holiday in response to the insanity and commercialization of the more traditional winter holidays. An un-adorned aluminum pole is the sole decoration for the holiday. The Festivus celebration includes such activities as the airing of grievances (you get to tell your family members how they pissed you off over the past year) and the feats of strength (wresting or other physical competitions). As a Seinfeld episode it was very funny.

But then, last week I saw a TV ad for Festivus Wine. Thinking it was not real wine, but rather a clever promotion for the new DVD release of the Seinfeld show, I went to the web site advertised and was shocked to see that it is, in fact, a real wine. Then, on a morning talk show, was a guy named Allen Salkin promoting his Festivus book.

My visit to Amazon also found a book by the true creator of Festivus, Seinfeld writer Dan O'Keefe. His book, The Real Festivus, is perhaps the only product made by anybody with any connection to Seinfeld. You might think, then, that Dan is the only person with any right to cash in on the idea. Except that it was actually Dan's dad who came up the idea about 30 years earlier.

A few more clicks and searches turned up multiple sites selling Festivus poles, and even a listing about Festivus in the Wikipedia.

Which brings me back to the start. As a Seinfeld fan, you know I love the concept of Festivus. But isn't the heart of the concept that it's a do-it-yourself anti-holiday? Doesn't all this success turn it into another mass-produced parody of itself? And if Festivus is now mainstream, what is there for the rest of us?

I'd take this time to tell you about St. Monty's Day, a holiday created by a few of my friends and I back in Jr. High School. But I don't want that to get ruined by success too.

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