How Festivus Works

By: Matt Hunt  | 

The Three Elements of Festivus

Festivus founder Frank Costanza
Festivus founder Frank Costanza
Photo courtesy Sony Pictures

The Festivus Pole

"Have you seen the pole, Kruger?" - Frank Costanza

As a symbol of the anti-holiday commercialization, devotees of Festivus displa­y a large pole in a prominent location in their home or dwelling. The pole is aluminum, chosen due to its very high strength-to-weight ratio, and is never decorated (this stems from founder Frank Costanza's belief that "tinsel is distracting"). After the celebration is over, it is not uncommon for a pole to be placed in an out-of-the-way place, such as a crawl space.


The Airing of Grievances

"Welcome, new comers. 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!" - Frank Costanza

During the Festivus celebration, friends and family come together to recognize the holiday with an annual dinner. While no specific foods are relevant to the holiday, the dinner contains the most vocal of the Festivus traditions: the Airing of Grievances.

During the Airing of Grievances, a Festivus devotee informs all those in attendance how they disappointed him the year before. It is also a time to report any ongoing problem or irritation that one is having with anyone else celebrating at the dinner. Everyone in attendance is given the chance to speak before the last tradition of Festivus begins...

The Feats of Strength

"Until you pin me, George, Festivus is not over!" - Frank Costanza

In accordance with Festivus tradition, the celebration may not end until two people participate in a contest known as the Feats of Strength. During this event, the head of the household (or the host of the Festivus dinner) challenges one of the guests to a test of physical strength. The challenger may choose anyone as an opponent and a challenge may not be refused unless, of course, the challenged has a previous engagement.

In order to obtain victory in the Feats of Strength, one must pin their opponent to the ground. There are various definitions of what constitutes a "pin" during the duel, but the most common is the standard 3 count. (Some accept a "tap out" due to submission as an acceptable way to end the contest.) Until the head of the household is pinned, the Festivus celebration is not officially over.

* HowStuffWorks does not condone participation in the Feats of Strength without proper adult supervision and protective gear.