The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Wines for Festivus

Posted on | December 23, 2009 | Written by Janice Cable | 3 Comments


Festivus, as the saying goes, is the holiday for the rest of us, and it is celebrated today, December 23. Festivus, the anti-holiday, came to cultural consciousness via Seinfeld, the television show famously about nothing. In a Seinfeld episode airing December 18, 1995, Festivus appeared as a holiday celebrated by the Constanza family, taken up by Kramer, and used by George as a front for charity. Given its auspicious birth, Festivus soon spread to the big three-dimensional world beyond the small screen. In reality, however, Festivus began several decades earlier in 1965, when it was created by Dan O’Keefe, the father of one of Seinfeld’s writers. Mr. O’Keefe came up with Festivus as an antidote to the crass commercialism of Christmas (and later Chanukah), and the stark nature of the Festivus traditions continue to speak against the glitz, the glamour, the tinsel and the all-around gooey warm fuzziness of the holidays, engendered by the jiggling of fat men’s bellies, airborne ruminants and never-ending oil.

Like the wise men, the Festivus traditions are three: a metal pole (George Constanza’s dad prefers aluminum because of its “high strength-to-weight ratio”), the airing of grievances, and feats of strength. There’s also a feast, but there’s always a feast; no holiday fit to wear the name “holiday” comes without a feast. Beyond Festivus’ simple triumvirate, the traditions are open to interpretation. The pole may be long or short, set in a base or hung from the ceiling, slim or wide. The feats of strength conventionally are wrestling matches that end only when the host is pinned to the floor, but they too can include almost any act of physical prowess. The airing of grievances typically include the expression of disappointment, but those too can range far and wide like particularly spiteful Monarch butterflies.

You and I may celebrate Festivus very differently—I may like individual potted poles for all my guests, while you may like to plant yours in your backyard like a Spartan cedar—but one question always remains: what libations go best with the Festivus traditions? Christmas has its nog, its wassail and its toddies; Chanukah has its Manischewitz; but what does Festivus have? Every holiday deserves a drink, even one created by a writer on his first date to impress his eventual wife and mother to his children.

To my thinking, nothing complements the simple beauty of an unadorned metal pole like Movia’s Puro. Holidays seem the natural time for sparklers—a bubbly wine is a party in your mouth. Festivus is no exception to this rule, and the operatic opening required of Puro serves as a counterweight to the austerity of the metal pole, plus Puro’s crispness creates a pleasant companion to the aluminum, which I use because I am, above all things, a staunch traditionalist.

Festivus celebrants often reach to a nice single-malt scotch or a beautiful boutique bourbon to accentuate their feats of strength, and for good reason. I have nothing against a lovely Dalwhinnie or a delicious Laphroaig, and I’m delighted to partake of Knob Creek, but let’s talk turkey. If you really want to pin that host and put a fork in Festivus, you might want to consider sipping some serious grappa. I like Poli Grappa Miele because it’s awfully pretty, plenty tasty and wicked strong. It’s artisanal grappa, and as long as you move those delicate little hand-blown grappa glasses out of the living room before the Greco-Roman wrestling begins, you’re good to go.

Some people see the airing of grievances as a serious business, and for those people, I might suggest a somber red along the lines of a Giacosa Barolo or a Soldera Brunello. These are wines for Festivus followers who put great weight in their grievances, bold and contemplative wines, wines that brood with furrowed brows, wines of gravitas, and they are incidentally really, really good. But if you’re someone who likes to put your tongue firmly in your cheek during this portion of Festivus fun, you might enjoy a wine that’s higher on sass and lower on glower, like Giuseppe Quintarelli’s Valpolicella or Movia’s Lunar. It’s up to you how you want to pitch your grievances, and the wine you choose will set the tone for your evening.

There is no specified order to the Festivus celebration. Just as some people open their Christmas presents on Christmas Eve, while others wait until Christmas Day, some Festivus celebrants like to gather around the metal pole, then engage in the FoS, eat the feast and finally air grievances, while others eat first, gather, fight and air later. It’s a matter of personal faith, really, and whatever works best with your loved ones, aka those who have most grievously disappointed you.  It’s a time for sharing, and not caring; a time to gather, and to blather; a time to wrestle, and then maybe to nestle.

Make merry, drink responsibly, love one another and yadda yadda yadda.


3 Responses to “Wines for Festivus”

  1. Andy Pasternak
    December 23rd, 2009 @ 5:37 pm

    Festivus is a time to be big, strong and bold, just like George’s dad. In that vein, I’m going with an amarone tonight!

  2. Antonia
    December 24th, 2009 @ 12:25 am

    I think you may have started a grand Festivus tradition here. Im in dire need of non denominational wine…But is there such a thing?

  3. Janice
    December 24th, 2009 @ 10:01 am

    Andy, you have a very valid point. But what did you have the Amarone accompany? Personally, I find it hard to utter grievances when my mouth is filled with Amarone.

    And, yes, Antonia, as anyone who has ever raised a glass of champagne to toast a New Year’s Eve or a mug of hard cider to toast a Groundhog’s Day, there is non-denominational drinking, and wine.


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