Festivus is a holiday contrived by Frank Costanza that serves as an alternative to participating in the commercialism of the Christmas season, it is celebrated on December 23.
Originally a family tradition of Seinfeld writer Dan O’Keefe, the holiday became popularized after it was the focus of the 1997 episode, The Strike.
The celebration includes the Festivus dinner, an aluminum Festivus pole (in lieu of a tree), the Airing of Grievances, the Feats of Strength, and recognition of Festivus miracles.
The Strike Episode Summary
As with many Seinfeld episodes, ‘The Strike’ features multiple story lines that eventually converge.
The main story, however, centers around Kramer returning back to work at H&H Bagels after 12 years on strike, as well as his discovery of Frank’s made-up holiday, Festivus.
Kramer becomes interested in resurrecting the holiday when Frank Costanza tells him how he created Festivus as an alternative to Christmas.
“a Festivus for the rest of us!” – Frank
Kramer goes back on strike when his manager tells him that he can’t have time off for his new-found holiday.
Kramer pickets on the sidewalk outside H&H Bagels, carrying a sign and chanting to anyone that passes the store.
“Heeey, no bagel no bagel no bagel no bagel, owww! – Kramer
Meanwhile, Elaine meets a man wearing a denim vest at Tim Whatley’s Hanukkah party. She decides to give him her fake phone number when he makes a move on her. But on a quest to become a “Submarine Captain” at Atomic Sub, Elaine realizes that she used her punch card at Whatley’s party to give her fake number to denim vest.
Elaine goes to the place that has been getting her fake number calls for years, an off-track betting parlor, so she can give them her real number, connect with Denim Vest, and get her card back.
The men working at the betting parlor are very creepy to her, so she gives them the number for H&H, where Kramer is working.
Jerry also met a woman at Tim’s party but it turns out she is a two face, someone who looks good sometimes and other times looks awful. Gwen, the two face, keeps changing in different environments but Jerry figures out that she always seems to look her best at a back booth in Monk’s coffee shop.
Unfortunately for Jerry, Kramer sees Gwen on the street, while looking good, and Kramer thinks she was someone else. Her conversation with Kramer leads Gwen to think that Jerry is two-timing her with an “ugly woman”.
‘The Strike’ also features some of George’s best antics at Kruger Industrial Smoothing. After receiving a donation that has been made in his name as a gift from Tim Whatley, George creates donation cards for a fake charity called ‘The Human Fund’, to give out at his work instead of real Christmas presents.
George’s boss, Mr. Kruger, gives him a check for $20,000 made out to ‘The Human Fund’ because he is “supposed to find a charity and throw some of the company’s money at it”, and they’re all the same to him.
While waiting at H&H for a call from denim-vest, Kramer warns Elaine that he sabotaged the bagel machine causing a steam pipe to burst and the bagel shop to fill up with steam. The steam causes Elaine’s make-up to run and when she finally meets up with Denim Vest, he is surprised by her looks and ends up giving her a fake phone number.
Later, the accounting department at KIS informs Mr. Kruger that the Human Fund doesn’t actually exist, so George is forced to tell him that he made it up in fear of persecution for celebrating Festivus, not Christmas. George invites Kruger to Festivus Dinner, to show him that Festivus is all too real, and he could prove it, if he had to.
Back at the Costanza’s house in Queens, everyone gathers to celebrate Festivus. This year’s celebration includes Frank, Estelle, Jerry, Elaine, George, Mr. Kruger, and Kramer.
Kramer twice declares a “Festivus Miracle” during the celebration in the Costanza house. The first, being the two creeps from the off-track betting parlor finding Elaine (via Kramer). The second, being Gwen finding Jerry (via Kramer). While not an official element of the Festivus celebration, many observers witness the phenomenon of Festivus Miracles.
Frank introduces Kruger to the Festivus pole, which is much like a Christmas tree but without all of the grandeur. The pole does not have official measurements, but it is advised that you find a solid aluminum pole with a very high strength-to-weight ratio.
Unlike a Christmas tree, the Festivus pole is very low maintenance, requiring zero decoration, as Frank finds tinsel distracting.
Airing of Grievances
The tradition of Festivus begins with the Airing of Grievances, which happens immediately before the Festivus Dinner has been served. The Airing of Grievances consists of each person telling all of their friends and family how they have been disappointed by them over the past year. Frank begins the process but loses his train of thought and moves on.
“I got a lot of problems with you people! Now, you’re gonna hear about it.” – Frank
The episode ends with the Feats of Strength, and Frank proclaiming that Festivus is not over until George can pin him to the floor.
Ah, yes, the Festivus Dinner, which immediately proceeds The Airing of Grievances. The traditional meal is a meatloaf and spaghetti with red sauce. No alcohol is served at the dinner, but guests are encouraged to bring their own flasks.
Feats of Strength
The Feats of Strength is the final tradition observed in the celebration of Festivus, which occurs immediately following the Festivus Dinner. The head of household chooses one person at the dinner and challenges them to a wrestling match. Festivus tradition states that Festivus is not over until the head of household is wrestled to the ground and pinned.
Frank Costanza: Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached 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 Costanza: It was destroyed. But out of that a new holiday was born … a Festivus for the rest of us!
Kramer: That must’ve been some kind of doll.
Frank Costanza: She was.
Frank Costanza: It’s a Festivus for the rest of us!
Kramer: Frank invented a holiday? He’s so prolific!
Frank Costanza: 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 Costanza: No. Instead, there’s a pole. Requires no decoration. I find tinsel distracting.
Kramer: Frank, this new holiday of yours is scratching me right where I itch.
Frank Costanza: Let’s do it then! Festivus is back! I’ll get the pole out of the crawl space.
George: Hey, I work for Kruger Industrial Smoothing: “We don’t care, and it shows.”
Kramer: Heeey, no bagel no bagel no bagel no bagel no bagel, oww!
Jerry: You don’t need the card. High-end hoagie outfit like that, it’s all computerized! They’re cloning sheep now.
Kramer: No, they’re not cloning sheep. It’s the same sheep! I saw Harry Blackstone do that trick with two goats and a handkerchief on the old Dean Martin show!
Kramer: Ah, gentlemen.. bagels on the house!
Jerry: How was your first day?
Kramer: Oh, fantastic! It felt so good to get my hands back in that dough.
(Jerry and George stop before they take a bite from their bagels)
Jerry: Your hands were in the dough?
Kramer: No, I didn’t make these bagels. (Jerry and George both take a bite) Yeah, they’re day-olds. The homeless won’t even touch them. Oh, we try to fool them by putting a few fresh ones on top, but they dig.. they, they test.
George: So, attractive one day – not attractive the next?
Jerry: Have you come across this?
George: Yes, I am familiar with this syndrome – she’s a two-face.
Jerry: Like the Batman villain?
George: If that helps you.
Kramer: (From a phone booth right outside the store) Elaine, you should get out of there. I sabotaged the bagel machine last night. It’s going down.
Elaine: What did you do?
Kramer: You’ve been warned.
Elaine: (Elaine looks out the window, and sees Kramer at the pay phone) Oh, hi! (Waves at him)
Worker: Hey, the steam valve’s broke.
Manager: Can we still make bagels?
Worker: Sure. It’s just a little steamy.
Kramer: (Kramer knocks on the shop door) Hey! How do you like your bagels now?!
George: “This holiday season a donation has been made in your name to the Children’s Alliance?”
Jerry: Oh, that’s nice.
George: I got him Yankees tickets! He got me a piece of paper saying, “I’ve given your gift to someone else!”
Jerry: Nice cuff links, by the way.
George: Office Christmas gift. I tell you, this Human Fund is a gold mine!
Jerry: That’s not a French cuff shirt, you know.
George: I know. I cut the button off and poked a hole with a letter opener.
Frank Costanza: Read that poem.
George: I can’t read it. I need my glasses!
Frank Costanza: You don’t need glasses, you’re just weak! You’re weak!
Estelle Costanza: Leave him alone!
Frank Costanza: Alright, George. It’s time for the feats of strength.
George: No! No! Turn it off! No feats of strength! I hate Festivus!
Frank Costanza: We had some good times.
George: Hey, check this out. I gotta give out Christmas presents to everyone down at Kruger, so I’m pulling a Whatley.
Jerry: “A donation has been made in your name to the Human Fund.” – What is that?
George: Made it up.
Jerry: “The Human Fund. Money for people.”
George: What do you think?
Jerry: It has a certain understated stupidity.
George: Aw, Mr. Kruger, Sir. Merry Christmas! (Hands him a card)
Mr. Kruger: Not if you could see our books.. what’s this?
George: The Human Fund
Mr. Kruger: Whatever
Mr. Kruger: George, I got something for you. I’m suppose to find a charity and throw some of the company’s money at it. They all seem the same to me, so, what’s the difference?
George: 20 thousand dollars?
Mr. Kruger: Made out to the Human Fund. Oh, damn. I’ve locked myself out of my office again. Oh well. I’m going home.
Jerry: 20 thousand dollars from Kruger? You’re not keeping this.
George: I don’t know.
Jerry: Excuse me?
George: I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. This might be my chance to start giving something back.
Jerry: You want to give something back? Start with the 20 thousand dollars.
George: I think I could be a philanthropist. a kick ass philanthropist! I would have all this money, and people would love me. Then they would come to me.. and beg! And if I felt like it, I would help them out. And then they would owe me big time!
Mr. Kruger: George, I don’t get it. If there’s no Human Fund, those donation cards were fake. You better have a damn good reason why you gave me a fake Christmas gift.
George: Well, sir, I – I gave out the fake card, because, um, I don’t really celebrate Christmas. I, um, I celebrate Festivus.
Mr. Kruger: Vemonous?
George: Festivus, Sir. And, uh, I was afraid that I would be persecuted for my beliefs. They drove my family out of Bayside, Sir!
Mr. Kruger: Are you making all this up, too?
George: Oh, no, Sir. Festivus is all too real. And.. I could prove it – if I had to.
Mr. Kruger: Yeah, you probably should.
George: Happy Festivus!
Frank Costanza: George? This is a surprise. (Looking at Kruger) Who’s the suit?
George: Yo, dad. This is my boss, Mr. Kruger.
Frank Costanza: Have you seen the pole, Kruger?
George: Dad, he doesn’t need to see the pole.
Frank Costanza: He’s gonna see it. It’s made from aluminum. Very high strength-to-weight ratio.
Mr. Kruger: I find your belief system fascinating.
Frank Costanza: Welcome, newcomers. The tradition of Festivus begins with the airing of grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people! And now you’re gonna hear about it!
George: Oh, God.
Frank Costanza: Quiet, you’ll get yours in a minute. Kruger, you couldn’t smooth a silk sheet if you had a hot date with a babe.. I lost my train of thought.
Jerry: Gwen! How’d you know I was here?
Gwen: Kramer told me.
Kramer: Another Festivus miracle!
Frank Costanza: And now as Festivus rolls on, we come to the feats of strength.
George: Not the feats of strength..
Frank Costanza: This year, the honor goes to Mr. Kramer.
Kramer: Uh-oh. Oh, gee, Frank, I’m sorry. I gotta go. I have to work a double shift at H&H.
Jerry: I thought you were on strike?
Kramer: Well, I caved. I mean, I really had to use their bathroom. Frank, no offence, but this holiday is a little (makes a series of noises) out there.
George: Kramer! You can’t go! Who’s gonna do the feats of strength?
Mr. Kruger: (Sipping liquor from a flask) How about George?
Frank Costanza: Good thinking, Kruger. Until you pin me, George, Festivus is not over!
George: Oh, please, somebody, stop this!
Frank Costanza: Let’s rumble!
Estelle Costanza: I think you can take him, Georgie!
George: Oh, come on! Be sensible.
Frank Costanza: Stop crying, and fight your father!
George: Ow! .. Ow! I give, I give! Uncle!
Frank Costanza: This is the best Festivus ever!