US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Festivus for all of us

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The debate returns every holiday season: Should we display religious symbols on public property or not? This year, however, it's not just about Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the atheists. It's also about Festivus here in Illinois, where a Festivus pole is on display in the capitol rotunda.

Festivus (see the video) is the holiday celebrated by George Castanza's father in a 1997 episode of Seinfeld. The family gathered around a pole, aired their grievances with each other, and wrestled.

The holiday was created in the 1960s by the father of a future Seinfeld writer, who made it famous when he wrote the episode about Festivus, the Miami Herald reports. Festivus has caught on with some in the past few years. The article reports that a Wisconsin company that makes decorative railings has sold 4,500 poles for Festivus since 2005 (photo from their website).

In Illinois, Michael Tennenhouse, a high school senior, applied for and won a permit to place a Festivus pole--the aluminum handle from his parent's swimming pool skimmer--in the capitol building, much to the dismay of some. 

A man who helped set up the nativity told the Associated Press that it's a mockery, and he may be right. Tennenhouse, though, isn't just mocking the Christians or the atheists. He is also mocking Illinois' governor, who faces corruption charges: "Although Festivus is traditionally celebrated Dec. 23, the people of Illinois have had to begin 'Grievance Airing' early this year," a sign with the pole reads. "Hopefully we can conclude Festivus before February."

Here's Fox News on a similar Washington State Festivus display. Is this the future of war on Christmas debates? Is a Festivus pole bad news for Christianity or a silly stunt?