One of the Elf Squad’s favorite things to do each year is to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas on repeat. Ever since it first debuted on December 9, 1965, this simple television special has become such an integral part of our holiday celebrations. Every year until 2000, we would sit in front of our TVs and watch it on CBS around Christmas time. It’s switched networks a few times since then, and can now be streamed on Apple TV.
Yet no matter where or how you watch it, this special continues to shape the holiday season to this day. From heartwarming music to memorable merch, we just can’t get enough of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the ‘Peanuts’ gang.
Brief Origin of a Holiday Icon
Cartoonist Charles M. Schultz created the first ‘Peanuts’ comic strip in 1950. Originally called ‘Li’l Folks,’ it centered on a boy named Charlie Brown and his small group of friends. His low self esteem and philosophical ramblings made him instantly relatable. And his loyal yet imaginative dog, Snoopy, became an equally iconic character. By the time the original run ended in 2000 — upon Schultz’s death — it ran in 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries with 355 and had been translated into 21 languages for 355 million readers. Needless to say, it was the most successful comic strip ever created.
In 1965, ‘Peanuts’ was adapted into its first half-hour television special — A Charlie Brown Christmas. Despite being completed only ten days earlier, it was a massive hit with almost 15.5 million homes tuning in. Two more holiday-themed specials followed within the next eight years — 1966’s It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and 1973’s A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Although many other specials and series have followed since then, along with five movies and a musical, those three are still the highlights of Charles M. Schultz’s legacy to this day. Hence why Charlie Brown and the gang have become holiday staples for millions.
What’s the Real Meaning of Christmas?
Despite his love for Christmas, Charlie Brown feels depressed during this time of year. And no matter who he talks to, no one can quite understand or help him. And it doesn't help that everyone else is obsessed with the commercialization, especially his sister, Sally, and their dog, Snoopy. While visiting Lucy’s psychiatric booth, she offers to let Charlie direct the annual Christmas play. But when he finds an uncooperative cast, and Lucy declaring herself the “Christmas Queen,” he just feels worse.
To help set the right mood, Charlies suggests adding a Christmas tree to the play. But instead of the pink aluminum one that Lucy wants, Charlie and Linus bring back a small sapling that everyone makes fun of. A frustrated Charlie loudly asks if anyone knows the real meaning of Christmas, and Linus answers by poignantly reciting the story of the Nativity. With new inspiration, Charlie takes the tree back home and tries to decorate it himself and show everyone its potential. But he quickly gives up and walks away when he thinks he’s destroyed the tree. However, everyone in the play has followed him and, led by Linus, give the tree a fabulous makeover. And, more importantly, they give Charlie a wonderful surprise when he finally returns.
Charlie Brown's Perfect Soundtrack for the Season
As much as we love these characters, this special just wouldn’t be the same without Vince Guaraldi Trio’s iconic soundtrack. Filled with simple piano, percussion, and bass medleys, it instantly evokes the most delightful feelings of warmth, cheer, and holiday wonder. When you listen to both the instrumental and lyrical versions of ‘Christmas Time is Here’ you’re instantly transported back to childhood. And the franchises’ most famous number ‘Linus and Lucy,’ always makes you want to dance. There are also plenty of wonderful covers, such as ‘Greensleeves,’ ‘O Tennenbaum,’ and the ‘Christmas Song.’ And producers brought on members of the children's choir for St. Pauls Episcopal Church in San Rafael, California to provide all the singing.
The soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas was voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007. And in 2012, the Library of Congress added it to their National Recording Registry list of "culturally, historically, or aesthetically important" American sound recordings. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, there’s no denying its impact on both the holiday season and American culture.
Charlie Brown Holiday Decor and So Much More
With any pop culture phenomenon comes plenty of holiday merchandise, and Peanuts is the perfect example. Every year, you’ll find lots of Peanut-themed greeting cards, ornaments, figurines, and even some festive animatronics. Look around the living room and see images of the children ice skating or Snoopy’s decorated dog house, all while wearing your ‘Peanuts’ ugly sweater or pajama set. Break out the Peanuts-themed tableware to make things extra fun at dinner, and lay out decorative towels and area rugs. And how could we forget about the now-famous “Charlie Brown” Christmas Tree? The small sad sapling with one red ornament makes a great desktop decoration at work and perfectly conveys the mood when you can’t make much effort.
Of course, the irony isn’t lost here — something that preached against commercialization became a huge part of it over time. But for us, it speaks to just how much everyone loves this special and these characters. And no matter how much things change, we’ll continue to enjoy them for many years to come.Apple TV subscribers can watch A Charlie Brown Christmas right now and it will be free for everyone to view from December 22nd, 2022 to December 25th, 2022.