Monday, November 23, 2015

A Charlie Brown Christmas: 50 years old, still relevant

In just a little more than two weeks, the TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas will be fifty years old. It premiered on December 9th, 1965 on the CBS television network. The USPS is honoring the special with a series of stamps it unveiled earlier this year. And ABC—which now owns the broadcasting rights to the special—will be airing an hour-long retrospective about the the special entitled It's Your 50th Christmas, Charlie Brown on November 30th, followed by a digitally remastered showing of the special, itself.

Of course, the special is commercially available these days pretty much everywhere, from grocery stores and drugstores, to stores like BestBuy and Amazon. I myself have a copy, as it's a part of the Peanuts 1960's Collection, which I've owned for a number of years now (also, the 1970's Collection).

Now I bought that collection so my kids could enjoy the shows any time they wanted to (okay, I like them too), but I've noticed something, with regard to the Peanuts holiday specials: my kids still want to watch them when they're on TV. In fact, they prefer to watch them on TV, even with the attendant commercials. I think it has something to do with the watching turning into a family event (they want me to watch with them), since we have to watch on a certain day at a certain time (no DVR-ing!). And that's a good thing, I think, especially in today's world where video on demand has basically taken over, whether one is using a service like Netflix of Amazon Prime, or one is using a DVR. There's something to be said for waiting  and anticipating, after all. There always has been and maybe we are—as a society—losing sight of that a little bit.

What better way to remind ourselves and our kids of this than scheduling a watching of A Charlie Brown Christmas?

But the special is full of many other worthwhile remainders, as well. And when thinking about them, remember that the special came out fifty years ago. One of its chief themes is the commercialization of Christmas, a theme that is regenerated year after year after year. Yet, we have managed to never actually take a step back. People complain incessantly about this commercialization, but someone is going shopping on Black Friday. Someone is buying Christmas decorations and the like in November (if not earlier).

Peanuts Christmas stamp from the USPS
There is also the related theme of the loss of the True Meaning of Christmas. In the end, Linus takes it upon himself to remind everyone what this is by reciting the Annunciation to the Shepherds from the King James version of the Bible. Charlie Brown thinks he understands, but really doesn't, not until his friends help him save his small Christmas tree, for it is their goodwill (that they take a long time to find, no doubt), their love and fellowship that "saves" Christmas. Yet, as everyone knows, Christmas often seems to be a time of short fuses, so to speak, when people exhibit even less patience than usual. There is perilously little fellowship on display during the holiday season, in my experience.

So as I'm writing these words, the idea of being able to say "let's really watch A Charlie Brown Christmas this year, let's really try to heed the lessons therein" is where I thought I was going. Yet, I could have said the exact same thing for the past forty-nine years. Because the lessons where as valid in every one of those years as they are today. Again, we haven't managed to do anything differently, by and large. Some might argue that we've actually gone in the opposite direction, have made things worse.

While all that's true, I'm still thinking it's a good idea to say it, so I will:
Let's really watch A Charlie Brown Christmas this year, let's really try to heed the lessons therein.
Because maybe it's the reminders, the trying—even if seemingly futile—that keeps us from going over the edge, that helps us pull ourselves back from the brink.

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