Atheist erects ‘Festivus’ pole to protest town’s Christmas display

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
Font Size:

A Florida atheist erected an 8-foot-tall “Festivus” pole outside the main fire station in Deerfield Beach, Florida on Thursday to protest the town’s Christmas-themed manger scene display.

Blogger and activist Chaz Stevens said he has been fighting for the removal of the manger scene for the past five years.

This year, he obtained permission from the city to erect his peaceful protest, based on the secular “Festivus” holiday featured on a famous episode of “Seinfeld.”

“Think of how many people have died over the years to give us our freedoms,” Stevens told the Sun Sentinel newspaper. “So I’ve got to push back a little.”

“How to make a statement, without actually making one, was the task at hand,” Stevens told The Daily Caller in an email. “And it was during my research that I came across a video by Allen Salkin (former NYT reporter and author of “Festivus: The Holiday For the Rest of Us”).”

The 8-foot-tall Festivus pole, comprised of 23 Pabst Blue Ribbon cans, stands several feet away from the manger scene and the town’s Menorah. Stevens said the pole’s low-budget construction was a conscious choice.

A more elaborately designed pole “would not get as much attention as eight feet of Pabst Blue Ribbon conveniently installed six feet from baby Jesus,” Stevens told a Sun-Sentinel blog.

Though popularized by a 1997 episode of “Seinfeld” in which a character invents the holiday and its associated “Festivus pole,” Festivus was originally conceived by the late Reader’s Digest editor Dan O’Keefe in 1966. O’Keefe’s son Daniel later fictionalized his family’s tradition while writing for the final season of “Seinfeld.”

The holiday has mostly been celebrated by pop-culture fans and invoked by the occasional entrepreneur, like the Colorado-based company Third Street Inc., which produces the seasonal “Festivus Chai” beverage currently available at select Whole Foods locations.

But the holiday’s origins are implicitly anti-religious.

O’Keefe created the holiday and its signature pole as a miniature sociological experiment while researching his 1983 book, “Stolen Lightning: The Social Theory of Magic,” in which he examined the use of sacred symbols that “give a core of certainty to collective experience.”

“In the background was Durkheim’s ‘Elementary Forms of Religious Life,'” O’Keefe told the New York Times in 2008 on the subject of Festivus, “saying that religion is the unconscious projection of the group. And then the American philosopher Josiah Royce: Religion is the worship of the beloved community.”

Follow Patrick on Twitter

Tags : christmas
Patrick Howley