Festivus for the rest of us

Derek Montague
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Goose Bay woman amongst those celebrating Seinfeld holiday

Janet O'Donnell's son, Gary, poses with the Festivus pole

It’s two days before Christmas and most people are rushing around doing last minute holiday errands before the big day arrives. But for others, mainly Seinfeld fans, December 23 is a day for aluminum poles, airing of grievances, feats of strength, and a meal of meatloaf and spaghetti.

That’s right, today is Festivus, a holiday for the rest of us.

Festivus was immortalized on a Christmas episode of Seinfeld, where it’s revealed that George’s father, Frank, had invented the holiday after becoming frustrated with the stress and excess of the Christmas season.

“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,” explains Frank to Kramer.

The hit show Seinfeld has many loyal followers who celebrate Festivus on the 23rd the same way Frank Costanza intended, by putting up an aluminum pole in their living room (undecorated of course because tinsel is distracting), and airing their grievances to all those who angered and disappointed them throughout the year.

Janet O’Donnell, a resident of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, is one such Seinfeld fan who has been celebrating Festivus for the past five years. Janet and her family enjoy the simplicity of Festivus so much that they have done away with Christmas entirely.

“There’s not a sign of Christmas in our house,” says Janet, pointing out that her walls are bare of decorations. “We take our Seinfeld episodes seriously.”

In fact the only holiday decoration in the entire house is the obligatory, undecorated, aluminum pole. Janet put it in the living room last night, and it will go back to the basement on the 24th.

Janet’s motivation for choosing Festivus over Christmas is quite similar to the reasons given by Frank Costanza. She felt that the holiday season has become too stressful, commercialized, and excessive.

“This whole season is supposed to be about peace and joy,” says Janet. “But nothing about Christmas gives us those things, so we went with something simpler.”

Festivus is also ideal for Janet and her husband because their son, Gary, is autistic and also suffers from a seizure disorder. For Gary, an overly stimulating environment and changes to everyday routine can be distressing.

“(Christmas) is very over stimulating for him,” says Janet. “This (Festivus) has brought our life some peace.”

Janet says that she is not out to demonize Christmas, or to snub those who celebrate the holiday season. She just thinks that her family benefits more from something simple, like Festivus.

“I’m surprised how many people get upset about it. It’s just what works for us,” says Janet.

“It’s not that we’re against Christmas, but it’s very excessive for us.”

Every year, Janet’s friends on facebook anxiously await for her status update, wondering if they made the dreaded ‘airing of grievances’ list. Luckily for her friends, Janet’s grievances are much more fun and light heartened than Frank Costanza’s.

“I'm only going to single out a few of you this year because finger wagging is starting to feel like exercise.  But just so you all know, I got a lot of problems with you people! And now you're gonna hear about it!” Wrote Janet.

Even Jamie Snook, the mayor of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, wasn’t spared in being reminded of his shortcomings.

“You’ve been Mayor for a few months now and still have not called a Town Meeting with the Finding Bigfoot crew so we can finally prove the existence of the Traverspine Gorilla.  I’m very disappointed in you.”

While families spend Christmas dinner eating turkey with all the fixings, the traditional Festivus supper consists of simply spaghetti and meatloaf. Janet and her family, however, find that meal a bit too heavy, so they stick with just a meal of spaghetti.

Just like Christmas, Festivus is known as being a day when miracles come true. Over the past five years, Janet has noticed that she has had great luck on December 23. She often discovers that long awaited mail arrives at the Post office on Festivus Day. One year, she even found a pair of keys that she had lost in the snow.

But there is one tradition that Janet and her family might skip this year, entirely. Apparently, the all-important feats of strength aren’t too popular in her household.

“I’ve already won feats of strength three years in a row, no one will take me on,” she says,

Geographic location: Happy Valley, Goose Bay

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