Happy Festivus, the atheist holiday

Yes, granted, it hasn’t traditionally been limited to nonbelievers. Still: It’s a holiday about nothing popularized by a show about nothing and created explicitly out of antipathy to Christmas. Toss in a rule about celebrating it in French and you’d have perfect existential despair. Even the aluminum pole — unadorned, unsentimental, but unbowed — makes for a fine skeptic symbol. I’m going to e-mail Hitchens and Dawkins and urge them to stake a claim “for the rest of us.” Expect a joint press release shortly.

While the stories of Festivus-inspired laughs are vast — like the woman from Kansas City whose Festivus feats of strength include thumb-wrestling, and the Festivus Pole lot in Wisconsin where the poles are sold like Christmas trees — it has inspired some criticism from pundits who fear it is taking away from traditional religion-based celebrations like Christmas.

”It is odd to me that Festivus would be a part of that debate, because the No. 1 reason this holiday has caught on is that it isn’t exclusive,” Salkin says. “It’s not religious. Festivus means nothing. And something that means nothing is very useful because everyone can agree on it. It excludes no one. It’s the joke that everyone’s in on.”

Today being the day, I’m inclined to take the rest of it off and proceed to the gym for the Feats of Strength, to be followed later by the boss’s Airing of Grievances about why I’m not at work. Celebrants/Seinfeld fans may, if they wish, air their own grievances below; “there’s too much atheist content on the site” has already been duly noted and logged. My own grievance: Did you know there’s not a single copy of Mario Kart Wii available for purchase at a major American chain right now? If you want it under the tree (er, pole), be prepared to be gouged with a 40 percent mark-up by small dealers.

Exit question: According to the episode, Festivus doesn’t end until the head of the household is pinned. Does that mean the holiday must be celebrated with others or, more strictly, that it must be celebrated with family, in which case singles are ineligible? A fine point of theology. Or atheology, as it were.