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Festivus:  the alternative holiday?

'Seinfeld' writer explains the occasion on 'Live and Direct'
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People all over began the holiday season be celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah on Dec. 25, followed by Kwanzaa one day later.  Festivus took on a life of its own after being first mentioned on an episode of 'Seinfeld' back in 1997.  Frank Costanza, George’s father, coined it as an alternative to the commercialism of Christmas. 

Former 'Seinfeld' writer Dan O’Keefe whose real father did create and celebrate Festivus, spoke to Rita Cosby on Thursday's ‘Live and Direct’ about the origins of Festivus and his new book, “The Real Festivus:  The True Story Behind America’s Favorite Made-up Holiday.”

The Hare family of Tucson, Ariz., whichcelebrates Festivus, also joined Cosby and O'Keefe to explain the significance of the occasion.  

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

RITA COSBY, HOST, ‘LIVE AND DIRECT’:  Dan... did your dad ever imagine it would turn into this? 

DAN O’KEEFE, AUTHOR, “THE REAL FESTIVUS”: No, it was supposed to be one family’s shame. 

COSBY:  And how did your dad come up with this idea? 

O’KEEFE:  Too much time on his hands, I don’t know.  Too much education.  Just sort of rattled around in there until it exploded.  I don’t know.  I’m not really sure.

COSBY:  Now, you celebrated with your family, what, starting in the ‘70s or so about. 

O’KEEFE:  Yes. 

COSBY:  What was the real Festivus like at home for you? 

O’KEEFE:  OK, the real Festivus was no pole and no father-son wrestling.  That would have had the state take us away, and rightly so.  The symbols were a clock and a bag, and I don’t know why.  He still won’t tell me.  There was a lot of grievances, believe me.  And another aspect was it was all tape recorded.  So we have all these crazy cassettes of actual Festivi going back to about 1972. 

COSBY:  So you still have these? 

O’KEEFE:  Yes. 

COSBY:  How did it become a 'Seinfeld' episode?  How did that evolve?

O’KEEFE:  An intervention.  My younger brother was a big mouth.  I mentioned to a friend of ours who was one of the guys running 'Seinfeld' about this shameful family holiday.  And he thought it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard.  And he told Jerry.  And so, basically, they sat me down and said, “You have to put this on TV.”  And I said, “I don’t think it’s such a good idea,” and they kind of twisted my arm.  So I wrote it into an episode I was doing. 

COSBY:  You know, Janet, how many years have you guys been celebrating Festivus? 

JANET HARE, FAMILY CELEBRATES FESTIVUS:  We started celebrating it in 1997, right after the first episode aired.  I think that was, like, on December 17th, we celebrated it that December 23rd.  We embraced the holiday. 

COSBY:  And now, do you celebrate other holidays?  Do you celebrate other holidays?

JANET HARE:  Yes, we celebrate, you know, the traditional holidays, Thanksgiving.  We even open a few gifts on Christmas, Easter.  If Trevor remembers, we do Valentine’s Day.  But definitely, Festivus is by far the biggest Hare holiday happening. 

COSBY:  You know, Trevor, walk us through, because I see the pole there.  Explain to a lot of the folks who didn’t know a lot about 'Seinfeld.'  Explain the significance of the pole and what it means to Festivus. 

TREVOR HARE, FAMILY CELEBRATES FESTIVUS:  I’m not sure that there’s any significance of the pole, except it is not a Christmas tree. 

JANET HARE:  Or a menorah. 

TREVOR HARE:  We use it as our sounding post when we do the airing of the grievances.  I make people stand next to it and grab onto the pole when they do their grievances.

COSBY:  And, Cassidy, did you ever wrestle your dad, for, what is it, feats of strength, the tradition? 

CASSIDY HARE, FAMILY CELEBRATES FESTIVUS:  I have a couple of times, but he can pretty much get me down pinned down pretty fast. 

COSBY:  Has Delaney done it? 

DELANEY HARE, FAMILY CELEBRATES FESTIVUS:  No.  I think it was before my era, where my dad threw his back out, so I don’t think we do it anymore. 

COSBY:  And, Janet, tell us about the food.  I understand not just here you have the pole, but you have Festivus food.  Tell us about it.

JANET HARE:  Oh, absolutely, all food, all New York.  Of course, a Festivus celebration wouldn’t be complete without the New York hot dog cart that we have outside in front, fabulous Rosemary’s New York-style hot dog cart.  I, of course, have the fabulous crab bisque, the coveted Soup Nazi crab bisque, that we are able to get in Tucson.  Cassidy has the big salad, Elaine’s big salad, that, you know, George, I’m sure, had a grievance about paying for.  And Delaney has the best Festivus foods ever, the muffin tops and the Junior Mints. 

COSBY:  Any grievance you want to air, real quick, on national TV? 

JANET HARE:  Oh, Trevor has tons of grievances.  No, my big grievance is that, you know, we don’t do enough airing of the grievances throughout the whole year.  So we need to do that more often. 

Watch 'Rita Cosby Live & Direct' each night at 9 p.m. ET on MSNBC.