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Pa. Town Celebrates Festivus

The celebration of Festivus is alive and well in northwestern Pennsylvania, nearly a decade after the bizarre "holiday" garnered pop culture notoriety on "Seinfeld."

Residents were preparing to celebrate "the festivus for the rest of us" Friday with a night of airing grievances, feats of strength and, of course, the aluminum Festivus pole.

"It's all in good fun," said Jeff Boam, 36, a math teacher from Millcreek Township and longtime "Seinfeld" fan.

"More than anything else, it's a great excuse to get together with friends and have outrageous fun," said George Klapsinos, 38, a senior technical service specialist for Lord Corp.

Many people learned of Festivus through "Seinfeld," but its roots actually go back several decades, when writer Daniel O'Keefe's father started it. He was looking for something more from the holidays, something that wasn't political or religious.

O'Keefe wrote "The Real Festivus: The True Story Behind America's Favorite Made-Up Holiday" and co-wrote the "Seinfeld" episode.

In the episode, Frank Costanza, played by actor Jerry Stiller, comes up with the idea for a new holiday after struggling in a tug-of-war for a doll at a toy store.

Festivus' "traditions" differ from those of Christmas.

Instead of a tree, Festivus followers celebrate around a metal pole. Boam's Festivus pole is 6 feet tall and rooted in bucket of cement.

"No tinsel, no ornaments. Nothing should go on it. It should be bare," Boam said.

Guests also grab the pole and fume about how others have disappointed them in the past year.

"One year, we had a blizzard on the night of the party," Klapsinos said. "So we grieved about everyone who said they were going to show up but didn't. I mean, we made it, right?"

Finally, the festival features feats of strength.

"This usually means wrestling," said Jack Munch, a real-estate broker. "I've seen parties where it deteriorates into five people wrestling in the snow in the backyard. The whole thing is a blast. You never know what's going to happen on Festivus."