‘Seinfeld’ Writer Finally Explains Where ‘Festivus’ Came From

by Matthew Memrick

Would you believe the father of a “Seinfeld” writer came up with the idea of the Festivus holiday?

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

“Seinfeld” writer Dan O’Keefe told the Daily Beast website on its Fever Dreams podcast that his dad, “Reader’s Digest” editor Daniel O’Keefe came up with the holiday idea. The New York Post reported on the interview.

The screenwriter took his dad’s holiday idea and ran with it during his childhood. O’Keefe went on to say that “at one point he said it was an anniversary for his first date with my mom, but he also said a lot of crazy s–t so who knows?”

‘Seinfeld’ Festivus A Cultural Phenomenon

The 1990s comedy still is a fan favorite years later. Show jokes and guest stars like the “Soup Nazi” continue to be part of the world’s comedy fabric.

The show introduced the holiday in a 1997 episode called “The Strike.”

So, it’s only fitting that many have embraced the raising of the aluminum pole. Oh, and the meaning has become an alternative to the commercialization of the holidays. 

There are actual conditions that come with it too. First, you celebrate the holiday on Dec. 23 with a Festivus dinner along with the aluminum pole. Then comes the “Airing of Grievances” and “Feats of Strength.”

Writer’s Dad A Unique Character

O’Keefe said the holiday was special to his family. But especially for his late father, who died in 2012.

“I mean this in the nicest way possible: My father was an undiagnosed bipolar, severe alcoholic who nonetheless was extremely high-functioning,” O’Keefe explained about his late father. 

Son said his dad came from an “extremely working-class background” and constantly reminded everyone about that fact.

Dad Daniel O’Keefe’s holiday didn’t have a “set date,” and it happened whenever the man felt like it. Other conditions could trigger the holiday, like a father’s extreme hangover. Son noted that his family had the holiday twice in one year and another year, there was no celebration. The man joked, “you never knew when it was coming.”

As for the Airing of Grievances practice, the writer said it was simply his dad’s yelling at him and his siblings. In the “Seinfeld” episode, George Constanza’s dad, played by the late Jerry Stiller, ranted people during a holiday setting about all of the instances they annoyed him over the year.

O’Keefe’s introduction of the fun holiday didn’t come easy at first. Colleagues worked to convince him to bring it to the show. They took him to a diner and told him that star Jerry Seinfeld loved it and wanted it in the show. The writer jokingly added that they “tried to dissuade them as convincingly as I could.”

Festivus In Regular Life

A Florida man brought the tradition to life in 2003 with his Pabst Blue Ribbon beer can pole at the state capital.

In Tallahassee, Deerfield Beach resident Chaz Stevens brought his Festivus pole to the Florida Capitol Rotunda on Dec. 11, 2013. 

The man said his display intended to counter the religious Christian Nativity manger at the capital.