Nostalgia runs hand in hand with December. Family Christmas parties and traditions we annually attended since childhood are now experiences for us to share with our own children. As adults we are seeing the same things we experienced as a child in a whole new light. That awesome truck you got every year at the family Christmas party was just your dad stopping for gas on the way in and picking up a Hess truck. Those amazing parties that you were allowed to run around like wild animals with all your cousins are now free babysitters while you tie one on as your kids wear themselves out for a good night’s sleep. One tradition I was particularly excited about was to re-experience and share with my children the old Christmas movies that run every year since the beginning of time (As we know it).
Dad was always so energetic during the Holidays
A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of the movies that has played every year since as long as I can remember. Odds are everyone you know has seen it, at least once. Surely, once you hit your teenage years you may have stopped paying attention to the Christmas programming, but now you excitedly anticipate reliving all the cozy Christmas memories of you watching all the Christmas cartoons and installing them in your own children. Unless your parents didn’t allow TV, but I’m assuming all those kids grew up to be serial killers anyway.
Merry Christmas! Love,
The Manson Family.
A Charlie Brown Christmas opens with Charlie Brown confiding in his friend, Linus, about his unexplained depression. In today’s world that may be interpreted as a big “cry for help” from an 8 year old, but back in the 60’s this was grounds for children’s programming. So Linus responds to Charlie’s honesty by ripping into him before concluding, “Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you are the Charlie Browniest.” (Great advice! Thanks, dick)
“Quit being such a Charlie Brown, kid!”
After more depressing “red flag” comments and constant insults from the neighborhood kids that would land a normal kid on suicide watch, Charlie Brown realizes his depression stems from all the commercialism that surrounds Christmas (Ironically, just before it cuts to a commercial). He struggles to find the purpose of it all, which is another red flag- that a child under 10 would worry about such things (Prozac wasn’t created until the 80’s).
Charlie Brown is convinced that directing the school play will help him find the true meaning of Christmas. He quickly fails at keeping the attention of his cast who just want to dance on stage, so he sets out to find the Christmas tree for the school’s play. After refusing the giant, shiny, aluminum Christmas tree, (Aluminum!?) he selects the only living tree on the lot, which is no more than three twigs with green pubes.
The entire school ridicules him upon returning with the tree. That’s when he finally gets the answer he was seeking from the same kid he questioned in the beginning, when Linus commands the spotlight and delivers a sermon to the group about the birth of Jesus. It inspires Charlie Brown and he takes the tree home, content with the meaning of Christmas. The pack of kids follow him and decorate it when he turns his back. He comes back and they all sing carols under the stars.
Twenty Five minutes! That’s how long this movie is. I wish Dora the Explorer could resolve her Christmas issues in 25 minutes. In fact, I wish all kid’s programming Christmas specials could wrap it up in 25 minutes. Seeing this as an adult, I was surprised how I ever liked this as a kid. It wasn’t funny by any means. It didn’t make much sense at all. Simply mindless animation with a 2 minute religious moneyshot. It felt like a trick. Regardless, the sentiment from past Christmases did kick in, and the history of this show is what makes it so special. It was Charles Schulz’s 1st Peanuts special. More impressively, it has aired annually on network television since 1965. That makes it the second longest running Christmas special on TV. Rudolph is the first only because it aired one year ealier in ’64.
Yukon Cornelius creeping out the ladies with the pickaxe lick, since 1964
This is chock-full of eerie musical numbers that would be perfect background music if you passed a creepy ghost child on the side of an empty highway at three in the morning. There is something about the old audio of the children singing like monks that makes the hair on my arms stand up straight.
“Hark! The herald angels singing…”
The major theme of this film is the “anti-commercialism” message. Yet every couple minutes we are bombarded with Christmas commercials. They stretch the 25 minutes into what feels like another 25 minutes. It can be argued that it is not the original intention, but even the original version that aired in the 60’s was inundated with Coca-Cola product placement that has since been removed.
As I mentioned earlier, you feel swindled when Linus whips out his biblical sermon on the elementary school stage. In a town where they haze the shit out of the depressed bald kid, that Linus, who gets away with sucking his thumb and carrying around a blanky, can get away with a nerdy, condescending speech and not take one punch from the gang is slightly frustrating.
Frustrating because I genuinely feel Charlie Brown needed some intense therapy. I never realized how morbidly depressing he was. Imagine the era when a kid would watch this and go to bed content, then his Dad would come down and force out chuckles watching an episode of M.A.S.H. while he tries to block Vietnam out of his head. No wonder the world is so violent now. How depressing is that?
Because of the 25 minute run time and the nostalgia it evokes. It won’t make you laugh (unless you’re shithouse crazy) and it doesn’t compare to most of the Christmas movies you watch, like Christmas Vacation and Elf, but the music and awkwardness of the audio forces you to reminisce about the old days with the family, and feel satisfied about how far Christmas entertainment has come since you last saw this.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every comment you would consider bullying or harassment of a deeply depressed child.
Take a Drink: for spontaneous and uncalled for shouting
Take a Drink: when you are confused about what they are talking about
Down a Shot: for every dance move you’ve seen a friend do at a wedding