Festivus is for real

PAUL TURENNE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:57 AM ET

Frank Costanza: 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.

Cosmo Kramer: What happened to the doll?

Frank Costanza: It was destroyed. But out of that a new holiday was born ... a Festivus for the rest of us!

Cosmo Kramer: That must've been some kind of doll.

Frank Costanza: She was.

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All attempts to commercialize Festivus are doomed to fail.

As an increasing number of people celebrate the Dec. 23 "holiday" made popular by a Seinfeld episode, a corresponding number have been producing Festivus-themed goods. Everything from Festivus poles to wine, beers and greeting cards are now on the market, but an author who wrote a book about the holiday that's "for the rest of us" said the very spirit of Festivus means no one will ever get rich on it.

"There are definitely now a lot of people trying to make money from Festivus, but I believe their efforts will fail," said Allen Salkin, author of Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us. "The essence of Festivus is cheapness, and there is something about the 5,000-year-old tradition of Festivus that will resist all efforts to commercialize it.

"I just think those who are in it right now are just trying to have a little fun. I got such a small advance for my book that not even I can be called a Festivus exploiter."

Tony Leto, executive vice-president of sales for a Wisconsin-based handrail manufacturer called The Wagner Companies, said the Festivus poles his company sells are becoming more and more popular.

"We started in 2005 and this is our second season. We sold about 250 last year and we're on pace to sell about 600 this year," he said.

Leto said it was no big stretch for an industrial handrail company to make six-foot aluminum poles with a supportive base, and they did it just for kicks.

"We thought that just for fun we'd get into it," said Leto. "We wondered about commercializing a holiday that's against commercialization, and we think we probably are, but we're just having too much fun to stop at this point."

Other Festivus products on the market include a Cabernet Sauvignon called "Festivus" made by a vineyard in Oklahoma called the Grape Ranch, several microbrews, and new greeting cards made by a New Jersey man now available at Urban Outfitters and other chain stores. Ben and Jerry's ice cream even once made a Festivus flavour.

But Salkin said true Festivus revellers, whose numbers are growing, will reject such products.

"I think basically these people just want to have fun. They're sick of spending money on Christmas and Hannukah and there's nothing left for Festivus," he said. "I've been to a dozen Festivus parties in the last two years and none of them have spent any money or bought these things."

He said that's especially true of Canadians.

"I think Canadians can more appreciate a holiday that can do without crass commercialism," he said.


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