The First Festivus, Part I
Not the First noel, but better…
***If you haven’t read How To Celebrate Festivus, I encourage you to stop what you’re doing and read it first and then come back.***
In the Festivus episode of Seinfeld (see clip), the holiday is presented as a creation of George’s father in response to the soul-sucking, materialistic commercial nature of Christmas. It is a rejection of all things religious and consumer-driven and features a single, unadorned aluminum pole as the sole decoration — I believe my own pole is an old closet rod but it really doesn’t matter. Anyway! Festivus has two other major components: the feats of strength and the airing of grievances. In the show, the feat of strength is wrestling and the holiday isn’t over until George defeats his father. The airing of grievances is when “you gather your family around and tell them all the ways they have disappointed you over the past year” — it is wonderful.
I am an avid fan of Seinfeld so I credit the show as my inspiration for throwing an annual, blowout Festivus party. I’ve celebrated since 2005; my first party was held in the basement of a brownstone in Bed Stuy where I lived with some old college friends. I found a pole, invited a shitload of people and bought an even bigger shitload of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. My roommates helped with the decoration which I honestly would not have done a thing about if they hadn’t jumped in. The Festivus sign in the image above was from the original party and constructed from a broken piece of furniture and masking tape. I designed an invitation that promised a large and impressive assortment of activities (see image), thereby beginning a tradition of hype and disappointment. You can see from the pic that the wrestling was promised to involve hot oil — that did not happen. Nor did the “lifting of honored friends” or “paddling.” However, the mandatory nature of the airing of grievances, the eating contest, the pole and the note of “3 floors of debauchery and anti-commercial holiday spirit” were all accurate.
After creating and sending out the invitations I felt pretty pumped. So pumped that I started searching the internet for other Festivus parties. I came across a site by author Allen Salkin, who wrote the official Festivus book. At the time, his site included a calendar where visitors could add their own parties and so I added mine. Of course I included info about all the crazy shenanigans I had promised on the invitations. Allen Salkin called me and asked if he could come. [NOTE: Allen’s Festivus site is now defunct; a shell of it remains but it is not what it was in 2005]
Allen Salkin didn’t just want to come, he wanted to film my party for a documentary he was working on about Festivus. I was real hesitant to agree because I knew drug use was going to be part of the promised “debauchery” and I didn’t want to implicate any of my friends in illegal activity. I delicately described my concerns and made it clear there were limits to what he would be able to film but I agreed. I gave him my address and went on with my business.
The night of the party came and friends started pouring in. I made the Kraft Macaroni & Cheese while the party was getting started. Shortly after the party began, a friend gave me some ecstasy — I forgot all about the giant batch of macaroni and cheese and focused on getting my friends fucked up and excited. About an hour after the party began, Allen showed up with a giant camera. I reiterated my concerns and laid out some guidelines — basically that he could only film the wrestling. I then forced him to do one of my prepared jello shots and introduced him to my friends.
The doorbell rang again. I went to the door to welcome what I presumed was a late-arriving friend, only to discover two complete strangers. They asked if this was where the Festivus party was and I said yes but who are you? It turns out Mr. Salkin had ANNOUNCED MY PARTY ON THE RADIO while recording an interview about Festivus the week before. Apparently some idiot assistant posted my address on his website’s calendar and these two strangers used this combination of information to show up for the promised activities. Also, they had come all the way from New Jersey. NEW JERSEY. They could see the discomfort and confusion on my face and proceeded to pull up their shirts to show me their bare torsos, thus proving [in their minds] that they were not wearing wires — they just wanted to party. I finally acquiesced and let them in. I made them do jello shots in front of me before taking them downstairs...
…to be continued