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post #1 of 63 (permalink) Old November 22nd, 2009, 23:27 Thread Starter
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Festivus for the rest of us

One month from now Paquador celebrates Festivus and to get us all in the holiday spirit, every day I will post some fun facts about Festivus as we count down to December 23rd.

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post #2 of 63 (permalink) Old November 22nd, 2009, 23:30 Thread Starter
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Most Festivus-friendly people believe the holiday was born on the 18th of December 1997, the day the Seinfeld episode 'the strike' was first broadcast. Those people are wrong.

Seinfeld undeniably presented this unfamiliar holiday in a seductively bitter light. The TV version of Festivus featured a bare aluminum pole in the place of honor many families reserve for a tinsel draped Christmas tree, an Airing of Grievances, in which friends, family and acquaintances accuse one another of being a disappointment, and Feats of Strength, requiring that the holiday not end until the head of the household was wrestled to the floor and pinned.

Millions of people loved it, or at least snickered at the holiday with dark pleasure. Within days of that first airing some early adopters began celebrating their own version of Festivus, buying poles at Home Depot, wrestling one another and airing grievances.

Something about the holiday's anti-cheer was delivering an antidote to the tinselly, tee-hee tyranny of forced joviality that rules modern holidays. Festivus felt right.

But despite what most Seinfeld watchers believed, this was not the first time Festivus had felt right to people. In various forms throughout the the millennia humans had celebrated holidays called Festivus.

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post #3 of 63 (permalink) Old November 22nd, 2009, 23:58
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post #4 of 63 (permalink) Old November 23rd, 2009, 20:08 Thread Starter
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Then Festivus is the holiday for you too!

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post #5 of 63 (permalink) Old November 23rd, 2009, 20:17 Thread Starter
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Festivus flourished in ancient Rome. It morphed throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and manifested strangely in 19th century California before flowering again in upstate New York in the 1960's.

What's amazing is that through its many incarnations Festivus has always uniquely managed to express the spirit of its age just as it does now. No one has ever owned it. It is populist. It adapts. Uncontrolled by any ruling power. Festivus just grows.

Some Festivus lovers may have a hard time believing that the holiday for the rest of us predates the 20th century. One hopes these philistines are aware there was civilized life prior to television. If so, lets briefly travel back to 3rd century BC, when the Roman comic poet Plautus used the word ' Festivus' to refer to the wild celebrations attended by the common folk. Brian A. Krostenko, an associate professor of classics at the university of Notre Dame, has studied the meaning of Festivus in the ancient world and found that even then it was something that evolved to fit its times.

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post #6 of 63 (permalink) Old November 23rd, 2009, 20:39
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et tu festivus?

But tomorrow is new day and new chance. -- Alija

Nel cielo biancazzurro brilla un'altra stella - In the lightblue sky another star shines. Alija tu non sarai mai sola. Alija you will never be alone.
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post #7 of 63 (permalink) Old November 23rd, 2009, 21:09 Thread Starter
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Humans have celebrated Festivus for at least 22 centuries. In ancient Rome 'festivus' originally meant 'pertaining to a festal day', a religious celebration. The word shows up in various forms according to the grammatical rules of Latin: 'festivo', 'festivom', and many others. For example, in the poet Plautus' 'Miles Gloriosus', one character says 'nune qua adsedistis caussa in festivo loco', meaning 'now, to come to the reason why you've gathered here in this festal place'.

For most of the year Roman society was hierarchical and restrictive, but on religious holidays (dies festi) people from all classes were allowed to gather and express frivolity. From this sprung uses likes 'festiuom facinus' (a jolly trick), and the use of festivus as a term of endearment meaning the kind of agreeable one can be after a day of wine and song.

The mid second century was a time of vast social change in the Roman republic. The social elite began throwing dinner parties like the ones they imagined the ancient Greeks had enjoyed. Festivus adapted, gaining a satirical spin. Thus in the 'Menippean Satires' of M. Terrentius Varro: 'omnes videmur nobis esse belli festivi, saperdae cum simus saproi' (we are jolly and jovial, so we think. Though in fact we stink, like fetid fish). The lines parody the self importance and would-be elegance of dinner table wits.

The orator Cicero refers to a 'festivum acroama' (a delightful diversion), referring ironically to Verre's habit of making off with something valuable of his host when he left a party.

As Christianity pervaded the empire, festivus referred not only to dinner parties and rituals in churches, but also to merriments associated with pagan feast days. This ensured the continuation of the word into the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and beyond.

From 'festus' was derived the Vulgar Latin ' festa', the source of the Spanish 'fiesta' and the Old French 'feste'. This was borrowed into the Middle English in the form 'feast' and continued to develop in French itself, becoming 'fete'. The Latin 'festivus' and 'festivitas' became the French 'festif' and 'festivite', which in turn were borrowed into Middle English as 'festive' and 'festivity'.

Festivus lives.

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post #8 of 63 (permalink) Old November 23rd, 2009, 21:17
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post #9 of 63 (permalink) Old November 23rd, 2009, 21:47
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Not sure if it's relevant lol

Self-Criticism

From the early 1960s to the early 1990s, meetings and study sessions constituted a large part of the daily routine of every North Korean. Such sessions typically occupied between two and four hours every day! These days North Koreans spend less time listening to eulogies of the "Great Leader," but these sessions still loom large in their lives.

The most important and dreaded of these sessions are known as "self-criticism meetings." Actually, in Korean they have a different name which is quite difficult to render into English - saenghwal ch'onghwa (something like "Meetings on drawing the results of life"). Nevertheless, I'd rather call them self-criticism sessions, since this descriptive name reflects their nature quite well.

As with many other institutions, North Koreans insist that they, or rather the "Dear Leader" Kim Jong Il (whom else?), invented the self-criticism meetings. Once again, this is not quite correct, since these meetings were once commonplace in Mao's China, whence they were obviously borrowed in the early 1960s.

However, it is true that in the early 1970s, the then 30-year-old Kim Jong Il developed a new model for these meetings and it had been followed ever since. Since that time in most work units the self-criticism sessions have taken place once every week. For some reason farmers hold them every ten days, and people in some sensitive positions are required to deliver public self-criticism with greater frequency. Aside from the weekly sessions, there are also "self-criticism" meetings of a higher level that are held once a month or once a year.

The work unit to which a particular person belongs organizes the weekly sessions. By definition, every North Korean is a member of some organization. There are about four million members of the KWP - the North Korean version of the Communist Party (the exact number of KWP members is kept secret). Youngsters aged from 14 to 30 are members of the Party Youth. All other adults are members of the Trade Unions. Those farmers who are not KWP members, are supposed to attend sessions arranged by the Farmers' Union. Even housewives are not left without ideological guidance and spiritual care: unemployed females are members of the Women's Union. These bodies are charged with responsibility for the self-criticism sessions.

Everybody must prepare for a self-criticism session in advance. One is required to write down all his or her sins and transgressions in a special notebook. When the time comes, one has to report all the transgressions of the preceding week. But what does one confess? Soldiers confess that they did not clean their rifle properly or missed targets during a shooting practice, students express their penitence about badly done homework, housewives admit that they cleaned the neighbourhood's streets without proper zeal. However, mere admission of mistakes is not enough, one has also to suggest measures for correction of the admitted mistakes.

After everybody has completed their repentance speeches with obligatory quotes from Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, the time is ripe for a bout of "mutual criticism." This means that each participant must denounce some actions of his or her colleagues. Nobody can avoid participating in those dreaded rituals.

The average group, be it a Party cell or a Women's Union team or a Trade Union group, consists of 7-10 members, and the average length of a session is about 1.5 hours. In other words, there is about 10 minutes to disclose and condemn the sins of every member. This is more than enough, since every single North Korean is supposed to undergo this ideological treatment once every week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade.

As a rule, family problems are not discussed during these sessions - unless something really serious has happened, domestic matters remain in the confines of the family. Most people prudently report only minor transgressions and hope that nothing serious surfaced during a session.

The weekly public repentance has long become a habit for most North Koreans. Often people transform them into carefully arranged public performances. It is very common to pre-arrange the exchange of criticisms with one's friends and then follow the planned scenario. However, such a scenario may be broken easily if someone else draws attention to a more serious transgression (of course, in such a case the protagonist would risk retaliation). In other words, there is always a real threat that some wrongdoing will be exposed in such a session.

"Self-criticism sessions," in spite of their useful formalism, cannot be taken lightly. Indeed, for most North Koreans they are a dreaded institution. They cause everyone to be mindful of their words and deeds and, from the authorities' viewpoint, they impose a strong social cohesion. They also break mutual trust, providing co-workers with opportunities for back-stabbing which would be undreamed of in the world of "normal" office politics. A defector once observed that "self-criticism" sessions had made the greatest contribution toward political stability in North Korea.

Maybe he is right. After all, as every criminologist knows, the certainty of punishment is as good a deterrent as its severity, and peer pressure works wonders. The "self-criticism sessions" are very good in uncovering minor deviations from the prescribed code of behaviour. And this is a reliable way to ensure the obedience and docility of the people. Those who are afraid to create minor disturbances are far less likely to be involved with something more serious.

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post #10 of 63 (permalink) Old November 23rd, 2009, 21:59
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Wow! Festivus every day!

But tomorrow is new day and new chance. -- Alija

Nel cielo biancazzurro brilla un'altra stella - In the lightblue sky another star shines. Alija tu non sarai mai sola. Alija you will never be alone.
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post #11 of 63 (permalink) Old November 24th, 2009, 21:25 Thread Starter
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Festivus continued to repercuss through the ages. In 1844 the word's irresponsible hold on the human subconscious manifested itself in the brain of marine biologist Richard Brinsley Hind, who had just discovered a carnivorous sea snail off the coast of Southern California. He dubbed the snail 'Festivus'.

The biologist is long dead now and no one knows why he used that name, but it was likely inspired by the creature's party-like shell, a spectacular melange of ribbons, spikes, crests and bulbous lumps decorated with brown stripes and flared ridges.

Like Festivus' modern metamorphosis as a sharp-witted holiday, the snail has a bite and a snack for survival. The 40 to 50 millimeter long crustacean survives by using its razor sharp 'radula' to bore through the shells of other mollusks. "It then inserts its proboscis into the hole and sucks the other creature out and into its digestive system", says Lindsey Groves, a malacologist at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. The Festivus snail spends its dozen year lifespan in shallow coast waters of Southern California and Baja. "They leave a slime", Grove says. "That's how others of the same species find each other".

Even as a proboscis slinging bottom feeder, Festivus has proven irresistible. "The reason we chose it for the name of our publication, which started in 1970, was it had a double meaning", says Carole Hertz, co-founder of 'The Festivus', a scholarly journal published by the San Diego Shell Club. "It was not only the name of a species in this area, but also it sounded festive".

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post #12 of 63 (permalink) Old November 24th, 2009, 23:11 Thread Starter
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I've changed the thread title, because it's about more than just this year's Festivus.

Edit: I've lost my powers. It doesn't take for us mere mortals. Can someone who's more powerful than me please change the thread title to: 'Festivus for the rest of us'

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Last edited by Boyo; November 24th, 2009 at 23:31.
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post #13 of 63 (permalink) Old November 25th, 2009, 06:38
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post #14 of 63 (permalink) Old November 25th, 2009, 10:47 Thread Starter
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It's a Festivus mircacle!

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post #15 of 63 (permalink) Old November 25th, 2009, 20:22 Thread Starter
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Clearly, at the late midpoint of the 20th century, Festivus was not merely surviving as an obscure Latin root. It was percolating, ready to be served full and steaming unto the world again. The opportunity came in 1996, when a New York intellectual named Daniel O'Keefe, who had an interest in pagan rituals and magic, was casting about for a name for the holiday to commemorate the anniversary of this first date with his wife. O'Keefe, 76 when interview in 2004, said the word 'festivus' just popped in his head. But with his ongoing research of ancient celebrations, it is likely the Roman use of the word was swimming around in his mind, ready to be reborn when the right occasion came calling.

As children were born into the O'Keefe household, Festivus continued to be celebrated there thoughout the 1970's, evolving into more than the celebration of an anniversary. It gained unorthodox rituals. "There was a clock in a bag", said O'Keefe's son, also named Daniel, adding that he does not known what it symbolized. "Most of the Festivi had a theme. One was 'is there a light at the end of the tunnel?', another was 'too easily made glad'".

As always, Festivus had arrived without dogma, a vessel that accepted what was poured into it from the hearts of the mortals who summoned it. The elder O'Keefe poured in a steaming brew of the philosophy that eventually flowered into his book Stolen Light: The Social Theory of Magic. "In the background was Durkheim's 'Elementary Forms of
Religious Life'", he recalled, "Saying that religion is the unconscious projection of the group. And then the American philosopher Josiah Royce: 'religion is the worship of the beloved community'".

In other words, Festivus for the O'Keefes strived to be an expression of what was happening organically within the family's brains, not something that they were told by outside forces that should be happening inside them. There was no pole, but there were 'airing of grievances' into a tape recorder and wrestling matches between the younger Daniel and his two brothers.

The younger Daniel grew up to become a writer on Seinfeld. There he appropriated and adapted the family holiday for a subplot of episode no. 166, officially titled The Strike, because of a plot involving Kramer's work stoppage at H&H Bagels. O'Keefe was the story editor on what has since become known by fans as 'the Festivus episode'.

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post #16 of 63 (permalink) Old November 25th, 2009, 20:52
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It's a Festivus mircacle!
I love holiday mircacles!

But tomorrow is new day and new chance. -- Alija

Nel cielo biancazzurro brilla un'altra stella - In the lightblue sky another star shines. Alija tu non sarai mai sola. Alija you will never be alone.
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post #17 of 63 (permalink) Old November 26th, 2009, 22:01 Thread Starter
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Seinfeld's Festivus again showed it is something that can be adapted to fit anything, even the requirements of a show about nothing. On the sitcom, the character Frank Costanza tells Kramer that he invented the holiday when his son George was young and he found himself in an apartment store tug-of-war with another Christmas shopper for a doll.

"I realized there had to be a better way!", Frank recounts. So he coined the phrase 'a Festivus for the rest of us' and formulated other rituals: the holiday occurs on December 23rd, it features a bare aluminum pole instead of a tree, tinsel is forbidden, and the holiday does not end until the head of the household is wrestled to the floor and pinned. The final act of the episode shows a Festivus party at the Costanza house.

Just as the holiday changed for television, most notably with the addition of the pole, the original O'Keefe Festivus in Chappaqua, NY, was constantly in flux. "It was entirely more peculiar than on the show", the younger O'Keefe said. Because of that both he and his father bless the sometimes bizarre variations the holiday has since assumed in the wider world. Still, the elder O'Keefe worries: "have we accidentally invented a cult?"

Perhaps. The holiday has grown like mad in the real world. From a Festivus disc-golf tournament in Oregon, to a living room in Kentucky where a cat with a special 'lion cut' hairdo frolics during Festivus, to a Festivus carol sung bawdily at an annual party in Manitoba, to a Festivus wine bottled on a working oil field in Oklahoma. Festivus is a glorious fertile vine spreading everywhere.

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post #18 of 63 (permalink) Old November 27th, 2009, 22:52 Thread Starter
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Festivus has been embroiled in a free-speech controversy in Florida, a Super Bowl victory in Baltimore and a tax policy debate in Washington, DC.

Festivus is just a word and maybe that is its magic. There is no ruling force, no humans claiming otherworldly authority to dictate its rules and ordain its leaders. Festivus describes what it is people want to celebrate. Thanks to its star turn on Seinfeld, a few bare bones rituals have become loosely attached to Festivus, but none of these are sacred. All, as is apparent though these stories, are malleable, easily discarded in favor of something more suited to the group celebrating Festivus at any particular moment.

Something about a holiday that requires no tinsel, no trees, nor dripping wax, no harvest horn 'o plenty and no flattery resonates more loudly every year. It could be that people are fed up with the commercialism of the holidays, or that there is a great yearning for an all-inclusive secular theme for December gatherings. Or it could be that Festivus is just irresistibly silly. One thing is for sure: Festivus is big. In mid-2005, there were about 118,000 Google hits for 'Festivus', a number that was growing by a whopping 3,000 a month.

Festivus has grown way beyond Seinfeld, just as it has evolved beyond what it was for the rabble of Ancient Rome. It is beyond anything that can be controlled by anyone. That is what make it so much fun.

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post #19 of 63 (permalink) Old November 27th, 2009, 23:44
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Thanksgiving is over. What do we do now to proceed with Festivus?

But tomorrow is new day and new chance. -- Alija

Nel cielo biancazzurro brilla un'altra stella - In the lightblue sky another star shines. Alija tu non sarai mai sola. Alija you will never be alone.
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post #20 of 63 (permalink) Old November 28th, 2009, 12:03 Thread Starter
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That's up next. I've finished the history of Festivus, now I'll give some tips on how to prepare for the Festivus party.

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