A Charlie Brown Christmas
A special event happened on December 9, 1965 and has continued each Christmas Season since. Kind of like the “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus editorial that is repeated each Holiday Season.
This story was written over a period of several weeks, and animated on a shoestring budget in only six months. In casting the characters, the producers went an unconventional route, hiring child actors.
Even the program’s soundtrack was similarly unorthodox: it features a jazz score by pianist Vince Guaraldi. Its absence of a laugh track (a staple in US television animation at this time), in addition to its tone, pacing, music, and animation, led both the producers and network to wrongly predict the project would be a disaster.
To their surprise, it is shown every Christmas Season and has since been honored with both an Emmy and Peabody Award.
Yes, this is all about “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.
I think it says a lot that Charles Shultz, creator of the Charlie Brown comics was adamant that the special reflect the true meaning of Christmas. He desired to juxtapose this theme interspersed with shots of snow and ice-skating, perhaps inspired by his own childhood growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota. He also created the idea for the school play, and mixing jazz with traditional Christmas carols.
Schulz was also adamant about Linus’ reading of the Bible verse, despite the director and producer’s concerns that religion was a controversial topic, especially on television. Schulz’s reply, “If we don’t do it, who will?”
In the 1960s, less than 9 percent of television Christmas episodes contained a substantive reference to religion, according to university research. It’s probably less today.
It could also be worth noting that the Linus’s recitation of Scripture was incorporated in such a way that it forms the climax of the film, thus making it impossible to successfully edit out.
The popularity of the special practically eliminated the demand for the aluminum Christmas tree, which was a fad from 1958 to 1965, when the special portrayed it negatively. By 1967, just two years after the special first aired, they were no longer being regularly manufactured
In the special, Christmas is approaching and Charlie Brown, despite all the traditions of presents, and holiday cards and decorations, finds himself depressed.
Linus dismisses Charlie Brown’s attitude as typical, “Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Brownest.”
What do you think that means? (Always depressed about something, looking to the down side of things as opposed to looking up,)
Charlie Brown’s depression is only made worse by the goings-on in the neighborhood, most of which show his peers’ rampant commercialism.
Lucy expresses joy in the sound of jingling money, admits she never receives her Christmas wish of real estate, and ultimately decides that Charlie Brown needs more involvement. Lucy suggests he direct a neighborhood Christmas play, but his best efforts are ignored and mocked by his peers.
At his wit’s end, Charlie Brown loudly asks if anybody knows what Christmas is all about. (Do you?)
Linus says he does and, after taking center stage, recites the annunciation to the shepherds from Luke 2:8-14, KJV:
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.”
Linus then walks back over to Charlie Brown and gently says, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
There are many interesting tidbits of Lessons in this animated film, did you pick any of them out?
Let’s look at a few of the characters and what they presented to us:
Lucy, not only does she express her love of money and fortune (all I really want for Christmas is real estate, and the love of the sound of money in her collection can), she comes off as violent (the knuckle sandwich offered to convince her brother), and a bit elitist (only January snowflakes are good enough for her), snobbish – Beethoven isn’t even on bubble gum cards
Naturally curly hair a bit vain?
Sally – All I want is what I have coming to me, my fair share
Even Snoopy – wanted to win that decorating prize, and he wasn’t a very loyal dog
But look at Linus, not only does he know the true meaning of Christmas, he stands by and is honest with Charlie Brown. And he adapts with his blanket…did you notice if you watched the show, every time Lucy challenges him about his blanket, he has a come-back…his blanket can be anything he wants it to be, same as HE can be anything he wishes to be.
The culmination of the story is after Charlie Brown walks off with his little tree, determined to not let the others miss-perceptions of what Christmas is about get him down.
He seems at peace as he looks to the stars while walking home. He stated that he thought the little tree needed him, and maybe THAT is part of the meaning of Christmas…that we need each other and a reminder that we are One.
He takes a large ornament from Snoopy’s ‘prize winning’ doghouse and hangs it at the top of his tree, but the branch, seemingly unable to hold the ornament’s weight, promptly droops to the ground. Believing he has killed the tree, Charlie Brown walks off in shame, believing he has ruined everything. (He has a self-esteem issue)
Linus and the others, realized they were too hard on Charlie Brown, quietly followed him to Snoopy’s doghouse. Linus admits he always liked the tree while gently propping the drooping branch back in its upright position and wrapping his blanket around its base, stating that all it needed was a little love. Loving is always the answer.
The others add the remaining decorations from Snoopy’s doghouse to the tree. The gang all joyously shout “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!”
Charlie Brown found his peace. Like Jesus who choose to not allow the disciples’ fear of the storm disrupt His peace, Charlie Brown chose to let the ‘gang’ behind, take his tree, his symbol of Christmas peace and let his inner peace bring him to his Truth, his understanding of the meaning of Christmas.
A heart at peace gives life to the body….”(Proverbs 14:30, NIV)
What have you learned from Charlie Brown & his gang?