Today — that’s Dec. 23 according to Seinfeldian lore — is Festivus. It’s a completely goofy pre-Christmas celebration / holiday that wasn’t exactly fictional even when it was first widely introduced in a season nine episode of the long-running 1990s TV situation comedy “Seinfeld.” Yes, Festivus, motto “A Festivus for the rest of us,” existed before “Seinfeld” writers made it a central theme in an episode titled, “The Strike.” But no one knew about it except for one member of the “Seinfeld” writing staff whose family celebrated something they called Festivus starting in the 1960s. See more details about it here.
Of course the “Seinfeld” crew had to embellish it quite a bit, which is what made it an enduring TV and pop culture comedy memory that has become almost an industry with T-shirts, ugly sweaters, games, memes, catchphrases and even its own website. It remains a popular “Seinfeld” episode that is now into two decades of reruns on cable TV. At multiple points today it will be cited by a few million people and celebrated in some way by quite a few of them. It is, probably, keeping the declining aluminum pole industry alive.
The “Seinfeld” concept of Festivus was born from an idea posed by the Frank Costanza character, a perpetually agitated man who became trapped in the commercialism of Christmas.
Uh, yeah. Frank and his son George would be better served by long-term anger management counseling rather than Festivus but that’s another story for a different day.
Festivus, of course, included annual traditions that include the Festivus pole (where the aluminum comes in), the Festivus dinner, feats of strength and the declaration of a “Festivus miracle” for easily explained events. The one most often cited, of course, is the ritual “airing of grievances. It begins this way at the dinner:
What follows, of course, is someone standing and telling those assembled how they have disappointed him or her over the past year. This is a “Seinfeld” moment filled with unstated irony. No member of the fictional Costanza family ever had an unexpressed grievance each and every day of the year. “Seinfeld” was an angry show in its time and Frank, George and Estelle Costanza were the most furious, easily agitated and contentious characters of them all.
So in many ways they were the standard bearers for people in America today. A few months ago I saw an older couple become enraged when the driver behind them lightly tapped their car while stopped at an intersection. It was a very minor accident — truly a tap — and the young male driver who looked to be age 20 or younger was mortified. The couple both exited their car and began berating the young driver with profanity-riddled tirades and threats. It was disturbing in its reflexive and shocking anger. This seems to be where we are these days.
Even in the 1990s it was a quaint idea that only one day would be set aside for the airing of grievances. A lot of people were angry then, too. But it was different, a kinder and gentler anger. It was more . . . reasonable. Now we live in a nonstop agitation mill where the airing of grievances is on a 24 / 7 loop via social media.
So today on this day of Festivus I won’t be airing any grievances. Like the Frank Costanza of years gone by, I have decided there has to be a better way. Let’s call this the “airing of peace, hope and blessings.”
Let’s start by saying that I have zero problems with you people — today anyway. All bets are off for tomorrow. But when I do resume normal broadcasting, it’ll be with far fewer expressed grievances. If you disappoint me, I’ll refrain from making you hear about it.
This is because overall as I head into my 60s, I am relatively rich in blessings.
I am a part of two great and loving families where we feature far more hugs than arguments. We can gather without acrimony because we try to make every minute fun, interesting and convenient. We also have a rule, no discussion about politics. Believe me, that last one improves your life about 100 percent.
I married the best partner anyone could possibly hope to find. She can do anything. We support each other in every way. I have been a part of “Team Taylor,” as she likes to call us, since 1997. The only thing that can defeat us is ourselves.
I am fortunate to have been involved in two rewarding careers in which I could and can make a difference. After leaving newspapers in 2016 after 34 rock’em-sock’em years of producing stories that either mattered, were crazy or entertaining, I transitioned into writing in a higher education setting in order to develop more funding for scholarships, programs, professorships or construction. Nothing beats a successful proposal and knowing that more students who might not be able to afford a college education will have access to one because of work in my department at Elon University. This is the most important work I’ve ever done.
Speaking of Elon, it’s a great work environment with a picturesque setting, excellent walking areas, reasonable deadlines and access to lectures, concerts, plays, athletics and too many educational or enrichment programs to count. Intelligent faculty and staff interaction and co-workers who get me is the best benefit of all. I had great friends in the newspaper business. I’m also developing long-term relationships at Elon.
After two years I think I finally believe Elon is going to keep me until I want to leave. Hope so anyway.
Did I mention that I get to have lunch with my wife every day?
By the way, I don’t need a car to reach most if not all of my work assignments.
Which allows me to walk anywhere from five to eight miles each day.
Two words: Craft breweries.
And do I need to mention the new brewpub downtown in Burlington that has become my favorite place to sit, have a drink and good conversation — not to mention outstanding food?
I can refer to myself as a “bon vivant” in my Instagram profile and no one says shit about it.
I have home delivery of the Sunday New York Times.
I have a lot of friends I interact with on social media who make me laugh. I really like to laugh.
A broken nose suffered last fall did nothing to diminish my rugged good looks.
We have plenty to eat and drink, a cat with big personality and a wonderful roof over our heads. Sounds simplistic but I’ll never take it for granted.
I’m not only content but generally pretty happy when I think about it.
That’s about it for this 2018 Festivus “airing of peace, hope and blessings.” Probably not quite as funny or entertaining as that airing grievances thing, but it makes me feel better. I hope it does the same for others out there as well.
As for the feats of strength, well, that will be sorely tested by not airing any grievances.
Happy Festivus, Merry Christmas, happy holidays, cheers to 2019 ahead and peace, y’all.