And To All, a Good Night

“A very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.”

– John Lennon

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

-Isaiah 9:6

Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!

Wow, I’m getting old.

I can’t believe it was, as another blogger reminded me this morning, 56 years ago today that the Christmas TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, premiered on CBS.

I was six years old, already a diehard fan of the Peanuts comic strip, brainchild of cartoonist Charles Schulz. Good ol’ Charlie Brown, Linus and Lucy, Schroeder, Snoopy, Pig-Pen and all the rest made me laugh a lot.

So, when it was time for an animated Peanuts TV special, I was all in.

And 56 years later, I still am. There have been several more TV specials, movies and musical productions through the years, but A Charlie Brown Christmas remains the gold standard for me.

I think one big reason for that is the music. Whoever decided the Vince Guaraldi Trio was the appropriate background music for this show was absolutely brilliant. From the sentimental Christmas Time Is Here which opens the show, to the sprightly Linus and Lucy that gets everyone in the Christmas play on the dance floor, these are still some of my all-time favorite Christmas songs.

Another reason is the director, Bill Melendez, who also supplied Snoopy’s voice. In his hands, this became a wonderful cartoon; often hilarious, sometimes poignant, remarkably relevant, and utterly heartwarming.

It had so many familiar comedy routines from the comic strip: Snoopy running off with Linus’ security blanket (with Linus hanging on for dear life!), Lucy’s psychiatry stand (Five cents, please), Schroeder practicing his Beethoven on a toy piano despite Lucy earnestly trying to win his affection, Pig-Pen raising a cloud of dust in the snow, Sally’s tender, unrequited love for Linus, Snoopy joyfully dancing or playfully imitating Lucy…

…and Charlie Brown, sorrowfully lamenting his station in life. “I know nobody likes me; why do we have to have a holiday to emphasize it?”

Only, this holiday, Charlie Brown has more on his mind.

He feels an emptiness this Christmas, a nagging voice telling him there’s something more to it, beyond all the commercialism everyone else (including his dog!) seems to have succumbed to.

Finally, after trying in vain to find the meaning, he wails, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

And Linus, being the good friend he is, sets Charlie straight, reciting the story from the Gospel of Luke regarding the birth of Jesus.

Well, for those precious few of you out there who have actually missed seeing this show all this time, I won’t spoil the ending for you. But, judging by all these faces, it’s a happy one:

It never gets old. If it’s been awhile since you’ve seen A Charlie Brown Christmas, treat yourself this year, and remember how good it felt the first time you saw it.

And if you’re one of those few who’ve never seen it before, and you get the chance, I invite you to take 30 minutes out of your day, sit down with a cup of hot chocolate and maybe someone you love, and enjoy Charlie Brown and the gang in this timeless, beautiful story.