Honestly, I hadn’t seen it in years. It’s just not been on my annual list of movies and TV shows to get me in the mood for Christmas. I’ve been wrong.
What got me going on this is James Poniewozik’s piece in Sunday’s New York Times. It’s called “In a Hanukkah Tradition, I Wrapped Myself in a Charlie Brown Christmas.”
Poniewozik approaches the 1965 TV special from his Jewish roots. I watch it from my Protestant upbringing. Turns out, they are not all that different. We all feel alone. We all feel outcast. We don’t always get it right.
If you haven’t seen it in a long time, here’s a quick synopsis. Charlie Brown just can’t get into the Christmas spirit. He’s bothered by the commercialization of the holiday. He’s received no Christmas cards. He’s depressed. His psychiatrist Lucy can’t even help.
Charlie Brown tries and fails to direct the Christmas pageant. He buys the saddest Christmas tree you have ever seen.
Finally, he asks Linus about the true meaning of Christmas. Then, the speech. Linus recites a passage from The Book of Luke. “And there were in the same country…”
Hearing that took me right back to Paris, Texas. As a kid, I learned to recite that passage. I could see myself saying those words with Linus in our home on Johnson Woods Drive. Was it a black and white TV then or color? I can’t remember.
Different time, different place when that special first came out. I wonder if you could be that full on biblical today? Poniewozik writes that even in 1965 it was a big deal. Peanuts creator Charles Schulz’s producers thought the show would be a disaster. Sixty years later, we still watch.
And then, there is the music. Vince Guaraldi’s jazz. The haunting “Christmas Time is Here.” Kids singing Christmas carols. Full on religious ones, by the way. Pretty glorious.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” ends happily. Charlie Brown gets over his holiday blues. He understands the true meaning of Christmas.
How good is it? All these years later, it still holds up. Sure, the animation is a little weird. It ain’t Pixar, but it still works.
James Poniewozik quotes Robert Smigel. He’s the creator of “TV Funhouse” on SNL. Smigel says, “A Charlie Brown Christmas is the greatest half-hour of American TV ever made.” Smigel adds, “and you know I’m serious when I say that, because I’m Jewish.”
Wherever you come from, “A Charlie Brown Christmas has something for you. In a time when there is not a lot to celebrate in the world, it shows us that we can come together.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is now on my must -watch-Christmas-get-in-the-spirit-of-things-list. Right there with “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Scrooged”
If you haven’t seen it in awhile, revisit it. You’ll be glad you did.
“Merry Christmas Charlie Brown!” Now, cue the choir.