The emails started coming in a month ago. The first was on April 3, from an unknown student with an Elon email address: “April 27 is our big campus wide drinking holiday, an event urban legends have labeled 'Festivus.' Come check Festivus out. I don't care if you don't write anything about it on your website. I just feel that the BroBible team needs to see and understand this. It is BroBible. It's everything the readers and writers live and die for. It’s booze. It’s girls. It’s mud. And most of all, its meat. A massive pig roast.”
Then another arrived later in the week, from the same student: “If you haven't seen my past messages, the Festivus committee will pay for your flight and a place for you to stay. That's how dedicated to the cause we are.”
And then yet another on April 9: “As I've said before, get back to me and I'll pay for your airfare and hotel costs. All of us throwing the event really want this to happen.”
April 9 was a Tuesday. By Thursday, a brief spike in the New York weather had turned south: Temperatures were dropping. Gray skies loomed. I was dealing that morning with a tax misunderstanding that had briefly left me a grand in the hole and frantically calling my accountant. At 9 a.m., I stepped on the subway to head into the office, choosing the empty car with the pooping homeless man.
Mud wrestling. Beer. A roast pig. Blue skies.
I shot over a follow-up to the unknown student: “Serious about the pay-for-travel thing?”
Elon University is a small school nestled in the piedmont of North Carolina, about an hour west of Raleigh. 6,000 people go there. Many live on or near the campus, which is, without a doubt, one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen. When you ride in, you get the strong feeling that you’re on some sort of exclusive country club—it’s all rolling hills and fountains and massive, imposing brick buildings. I wasn’t surprised, at all, when a student told me that Elon has been named the Most Beautiful Campus in the U.S. multiple times. Or that the whole thing is an actual, state-designated botanical garden. It’s idyllic.
I met my handlers, including party chair Dean, Friday night at a Festivus Eve pre-party at the Sheridan Apartments, just off campus. Everyone was terrific. Most at least claimed to be expecting me. “You’re the BroBible guy?” said one girl. “I was expecting some old guy who’d creepily follow us with a camera.” (I didn't really have a response to this.) Most other conversations were slight variations off an Elon kid drunkenly saying, “You have no idea what’s in store for tomorrow,” with me responding, “Hey, I’m only a year out of school. I know how you kids roll. I see the emails. C’mon.”
I was told Elon’s Festivus origin story. Which goes something like this:
The party began nine years ago. Its name naturally stems from George Costanza’s famous telling of “The Story of Festivus” on Seinfeld, although—save a canceled yearly attempt at placing the pig’s head atop a long metal pole—there are no similar traditions. No Airing of Grievances. And the only Feats of Strength involve carrying two dozen kegs from one patch of grass to another.
Instead, Festivus was so named because the motto, “a Festivus for the rest of us,” reflected what the Founders (who were described to me in a way that requires a capital “F”) wanted out of a party. These Founders were non-affiliated Elon bros, and they wanted to create a full-blown campus-wide Event, open to literally any student, Greek or not. This Event would take donations throughout the year for the beer and the pig, and one of the main attractions would be mud wrestling, because why not.
Somehow, this crazy idea worked. The Founders convinced a group of returning students to throw the party for them the next year. An informal chain of succession was established, with younger kids learning the ropes and then, during their sophomore and junior years, taking their turn by collecting donations and throwing the actual party. Considering the fact that there is no student, fraternal, or university organization to back this power handoff, you’d think it would be about as stable as a Somalian government changing hands. But it’s actually worked. Nine years straight!
Of course, the chain of command isn’t the only miracle to come out of the party. The True Festivus Miracle, as told to me on Saturday, states that the skies will always be clear on the given party day. I can’t speak for past years. But I’ll confirm that the weather was indeed perfect during my trip.
Filled with keg beer, I crashed on the couch of a sorority house that took me in. It wasn’t the best night of sleep.