A season nine episode of Seinfeld entitled “The Strike” introduced the world to Festivus, a zany holiday in which folks can air a years’ worth of grievances and wrestle family members under the watchful eye of a bare aluminum poll. Since “The Strike” aired in 1997, Seinfeld fans around the world have celebrated the alternative holiday invented – at least in the world of the show – by Jerry Stiller’s (Seinfeld, The King of Queens) Frank Costanza. However, the actor’s passing earlier this year marks the first Festivus fans have celebrated without its on-screen inventor, and paying tribute to the late actor has been the tenure of this year’s social media celebration of the holiday.
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While Mr. Costanza may have invented Festivus on-screen, the origins of the holiday pre-date the iconic 90’s NBC sitcom. The first Festivus was celebrated in 1966, an invention of Seinfeld writer Dan O’Keefe’s (Seinfeld, The Drew Carey Show) father, via Time. When the writer’s room discovered O’Keefe’s unique family tradition, they mined all of the holiday’s glory to create a beloved holiday episode of television.
The New York Times ran an article in 2016 that detailed the ways in which Seinfeld fans celebrate the holiday, from big parties to epic feats of strength. However, as with most 2020 holidays, in-person celebrations of the holiday have been put on hold this year.
Seinfeld fans have still gathered on social media to celebrate the holiday, as they do every Festivus. Time explains that “every year on December 23rd, the internet is taken over with odes to Festivus.” This year’s celebration is a bit bittersweet, as the actor responsible for giving Festivus an on-screen life has passed away.
— FestivusWeb.com (@FestivusWeb) December 17, 2020
Many fans online have paid tribute to Stiller in their Festivus-related social media posts. A Festivus fanpage posted art of Stiller’s Frank Costanza, commenting that: “this will be the first Festivus with [Stiller] watching from above” (Twitter). Posts such as this have been common among fans today, who have taken time out of their celebratory post to acknowledge Stiller’s legacy as the on-screen “Father of Festivus”, via Twitter. IMDB, who featured Stiller in their recent In Memoriam 2020 video, tweeted out a gif of Frank Costanza to ask fans how they were celebrating Festivus this year.
Happy Festivus, my friends. I wish you health, success and happiness. But…I got a lotta problems with you people. 💝 pic.twitter.com/zgShg1y75V
— jason alexander (@IJasonAlexander) December 23, 2020
Seinfeld actors Jerry Seinfeld (Seinfeld, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee) and Jason Alexander (Seinfeld, Pretty Woman) also tweeted out in celebration of the holiday, though Seinfeld suggested fans skip the airing of grievances on this particular year, via Twitter. “I know I can say on behalf of all who worked with [Stiller] over his long career that we adored him,” Alexander, who played Frank’s son George Costanza on Seinfeld, wrote of the actor after his passing in May, via The New York Times. In The New York Times op-ed, Alexander mentions Festivus as one of the many moments on Seinfeld that Stiller will always be “remembered for and equated with”.