There are certain traditions that carry through for years and years. When I was little, I looked forward to watching A Charlie Brown Christmas each holiday season and eagerly waited to see it on the television listings. Now we don’t have to wait for it to come on television, but the anticipation which comes with the season is still the same.
Some of the younger generations might not be as familiar with the Peanuts gang as us “old folk”. Charles Schultz authored the script centered around the lovable screw-up, Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown tries too hard at times and sometimes seems depressed and pessimistic. However, he’s a side to many people that we don’t always let the world see. There are no parents or adults in the world of the Peanuts characters, and that is fine as the children learn life lessons mostly from each other.
Charlie Brown laments that he doesn’t feel the way he is “supposed to feel” at Christmastime. He is focused on getting presents and decorations. He hasn’t received any Christmas cards, not even from those he thinks of as his friends. Everywhere he turns he sees commercialism and greed, even from his baby sister, Sally.
When he visits Lucy’s Psychiatry Booth for advice, she tells him he needs “involvement” and talks him into directing the Christmas play. Even that doesn’t seem to be going right. Lucy sends him out with Linus to get the Christmas Tree. Instead of bringing back the “big aluminum Christmas tree” everyone was asking for (maybe painted pink!), he brings home a little tree that somehow has endeared itself to him.
When the tree is received about as you’d expect by the kids waiting for them to return, Charlie Brown wants to know what Christmas is all about. Linus recites the story of the angels appearing to the shepherds following Jesus’ birth from Luke.
Charlie Brown leaves with his little tree, followed by the other kids, seeming to have found some peace. When he arrives home, he finds that Snoopy has won first prize in the decorations contest. He borrows one of the decorations for his tree. When it bends over, he thinks he’s broken it and goes away, depressed.
Linus and the other children come upon it. Linus wraps his blanket around it, and the other children give it love and decorate it. Soon, it’s a beautiful, full tree – a Christmas miracle built on the faith of one child. All the children realize together what the true meaning of Christmas is.
The message in A Charlie Brown Christmas is strong and very much based in the Christian faith, although non-specific to any denomination. It serves to remind us what Christmas is all about as we ourselves get caught up in shopping, pageants, plays, concerts, and decorating. At the same time, it’s fun for kids to watch and enjoy.
Humor abounds, whether it’s Snoopy catching ahold of Linus’ blanket and spinning Charlie Brown into a tree or Lucy trying to give Schroeder direction on how to play Jingle Bells. The humor of Snoopy mimicking Lucy is still timeless, even after viewing this special for many, many years, and brings a huge smile to my face.
Animation isn’t modern by any means. The characters are often moving against a stagnant, flat background. The DVD has been remastered and the picture is excellent, probably the best I’ve seen in years. The animation doesn’t look like the modern computer-aided or computer-generated fare we see so much in the multiplex and on various television networks, but in many ways, it’s richer due to its simplicity. It sure holds up against modern programs in my children’s eyes.
The music is excellent. Most of it is an upbeat jazz piano, and the tune which has become known as the Charlie Brown Theme is here for the children to dance to on the stage before he calls them to order. The background music is poignant and simple, with an edge of melancholy to it.
There are a few points that have always bothered me. Tell me, where does Snoopy get the decorations for his doghouse? He sure can’t go out to the store and buy them, even if he did manage to get his paws on some money. That always bothered me, even as a kid.
The DVD hasn’t been packaged with any extras, and that’s a shame. I know there have to be interviews out there with Charles Schultz, especially about this television special which would be interesting and deserving of inclusion.
Right from the first piano notes and the children’s chorus singing: Christmastime is here…. Happiness and cheer… I always enjoy settling in for one of my favorite Christmas shows. Now I get to watch it with my own children, and
A Charlie Brown Christmas is actually just a few months older than I am, having been aired for the first time in 1965. More than forty years later, it still holds up as parents try to fight the clamor for the latest video game system. It serves as a bit of grounding in an otherwise and often crazy, materialistic world.
Categories: Christmas Movies, Peanuts Specials, Television Reviews
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