State Capitols Celebrate the Real Gem of the Holiday Season: Festivus

It’s the holiday for Florida, Wisconsin, and the rest of us.

A Festivus celebration in Adams Morgan, Washington.
National Journal
Matt Berman
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Matt Berman
Dec. 9, 2013, 10:44 a.m.

It’s nearly Fest­ivus! And to cel­eb­rate, at least a couple state cap­it­ols are get­ting ready to take out the poles and air the griev­ances.

What is Fest­ivus, ex­actly? Fest­ivus is the, ori­gin­ally fic­tion­al, “Fest­ivus for the Restivus” cre­ated by Frank Cost­anza in a 1997 epis­ode of Sein­feld. As le­gend has it, Cost­anza cre­ated the hol­i­day when he failed to ac­quire a doll for his son George when he was a child. It’s cel­eb­rated on Dec. 23 by “gath­er­ing your fam­ily around and telling them all the ways they have dis­ap­poin­ted you in the last year,” a prac­tice more form­ally re­ferred to as “the air­ing of the griev­ances.” In­stead of a tree, there is a bare alu­min­um pole to rally around. The hol­i­day also fea­tures feats of strength, when the head of the house­hold chal­lenges someone else to a wrest­ling match.

The Wis­con­sin and Flor­ida state cap­it­ols will both have Fest­ivus poles on dis­play this hol­i­day sea­son. In Wis­con­sin, a sil­ver pole is already stand­ing between two nativ­ity scenes in the packed ro­tunda. A sign hangs on the pole prom­ising an air­ing of the griev­ances on the 23rd, but no feats of strength “due to li­ab­il­ity is­sues.”

In Flor­ida, where a stand­ard Fest­ivus pole wouldn’t quite be ap­pro­pri­ately weird enough, a nearly 6-foot-tall poll made out of empty PBR cans will go up this week in the Cap­it­ol build­ing. The pole will be on the same floor of the ro­tunda as the more stand­ard nativ­ity scene that’s been up since last week. Chaz Stevens, who was the Flor­ida res­id­ent to ap­ply to put up the Fest­ivus dis­play, says that he con­siders it his “ri­dicu­lous state­ment versus what I con­sider, as an athe­ist, as their ri­dicu­lous state­ment.”

Amer­ica: where free­dom of re­li­gion means stuff­ing a cramped ro­tunda for a week or so with a di­orama on the birth of Je­sus and a stack of empty beer cans. Or, well, at least that’s the case in Flor­ida.

In the war on Christ­mas, Ha­nukkah, and the gen­er­al hol­i­day sea­son, Fest­ivus al­ways wins.

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