It's Christmas, Charlie Brown
November 30, 2015 1:42 PM   Subscribe

"So as much as A Charlie Brown Christmas is about the significance of the religious tradition as what Christmas is "really about," it sees that tradition at least in part as a gateway to, and an inspiration for, other actions. It doesn't only suggest Christmas is really about the Bible story; it suggests Christmas is also really about friends, dogs, cooperating, the beauty of humble things, singing out loud, and hope." Linda Holmes, "'A Charlie Brown Christmas' At 50," for NPR's Monkey See.

For those who remember being able to watch this special but once a year.
posted by MonkeyToes (57 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
The pain, PAIN I feel when I think how good kids have it today (in that they can watch it whenever they want).
posted by Melismata at 1:49 PM on November 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


The first time I saw A Charlie Brown Christmas was either 1972 or 1973. I have not missed a single broadcast since. Even though I have the DVD, I always watch the Broadcast. And I also drag out the Snoopy I've had since I was two and he watches with me.

It's tradition, dammit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:50 PM on November 30, 2015 [40 favorites]


Also - I had a column in my college newspaper about "life in the dorms", and that year I did one about CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS and it was far and away the best-received one I ever did. I'll see if I can find it and post some quotes when I get home.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:51 PM on November 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


One of my favorite things about the Christmas special is that Charlie Brown rails against the commercialization of Christmas, so what do They do? They make a plastic Charlie Brown Christmas tree.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:52 PM on November 30, 2015 [16 favorites]


MeFi's Own!

Read the comments; they're worth it this time. The best is Linda Holmes takes the time to calmly acknowledge a poster's anger at what he considered over-analysis of an animated TV special:
Oh, well, let's all think about it the way we think about it, you know? That's why we all have different ideas, after all. I don't think bleakness, once acknowledged, has to be quite as scary and pathological as you're making it out to be. Bleakness is quite normal; so is sadness. That's part of what I think the special is about, actually. Fear of sad things, and a belief that they put you a step away from disaster, kind of seems regrettable to me.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:52 PM on November 30, 2015 [15 favorites]


And the joy, JOY I remember when as a sophomore in college I watched it on a broadcast-recorded VHS tape for the first time, and the owner had lovingly PAUSED IT TO CUT OUT THE COMMERCIALS. Oh, what happiness that is still so vivid to me. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't...
posted by Melismata at 1:55 PM on November 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Plus, without A Charlie Brown Christmas we wouldn't have It's a Bad Brains Christmas, Charlie Brown.

So there's that.
posted by delfin at 2:03 PM on November 30, 2015 [15 favorites]


I really encourage people to go back and read the vintage Peanuts strips. I really like the 1950s ones, but whatever floats your boat. You can buy them in handcome hardcovers if you like. That comic was really, really great.

"guzzling Irish coffee in a bar on a snow-blanketed night in New York when you just got stood up but you feel weirdly OK about it"

This is the correct way to describe Vince Guaraldi, but I feel kind of sad about it, because to me it's also why jazz of this kind is a historical thing. It's a kind of music that's great at invoking complex and hard to predict feelings, but you can't vacuum pack that and ship it to markets worldwide.
posted by selfnoise at 2:04 PM on November 30, 2015 [17 favorites]


Even though this will never be the Christmas cartoon to me (original Grinch forever!), it is a fine addition to the canon, and the music is unbelievably perfect. Guaraldi is basically the score to my Christmas every year.
posted by tocts at 2:11 PM on November 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


In a just world, every airing would be immediately preceded by this (it originally aired on CBS).
posted by schoolgirl report at 2:28 PM on November 30, 2015 [43 favorites]


In a just world, every airing would be immediately preceded by this (it originally aired on CBS).

Yes!! Someone mentioned that in the comments on the NPR site and my brain instantly played that little drum solo.
posted by dnash at 2:32 PM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oooh, thanks for the heads up!
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 2:47 PM on November 30, 2015


Ah, comments! One guy says:

I really enjoy Linus' explanation of Christmas. It's both heart-rending and deliciously un-PC.

I wonder if he knows it's direct from the King James. Or maybe he just means including it is un-PC. Anyway, you're right - the rest of the comments were good and quite insightful. I liked this one: " always found the show to be a bit sad/bleak. The song "Christmas Time Is Here," with its minor chords and melancholy singers, played no small part in that feeling. I never felt that Linus' expositions raised the tone of the show above that initial longing. (And that's not to imply that's a bad thing. I watched this every year as a kid with great anticipation and enjoyed it. Maybe it was a welcome change from all the above-the-top happyhappyhappy holiday offerings.)" So true that it rang as real, important, honest and funny, not treacly and shallowly fa-la-la-la-la like most of the other specials.
posted by Miko at 2:49 PM on November 30, 2015 [10 favorites]


The pain, PAIN I feel when I think how good kids have it today (in that they can watch it whenever they want).

Like all Christnas related activities watching it outside of December is clearly illegal. There are rules, dammit.
posted by Artw at 2:55 PM on November 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


I've been trying to think of Christmas shows that were made when I was a kid that still hold up, and the only one I can really think of is "Emmet Otter's Jug-band Christmas" (though it's 2 years older than me. It mines some of the same emotions as the Charlie Brown one in its twist on "The Gift of the Magi."
posted by drezdn at 3:12 PM on November 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


"Wha-wu-wha-wha-wunt"

-adult teacher, 'Peanuts'
posted by clavdivs at 3:26 PM on November 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


My sister and I used to watch this every year as kids. When we got older, we would call each others homes and leave answering machine messages of us screeching "Christmas time is here. ..sleigh bells ring good cheer. .."

Reminds me that I should call my sister!
posted by Elly Vortex at 3:27 PM on November 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


The song "Christmas Time Is Here," with its minor chords and melancholy singers, played no small part in that feeling.

So much so that it's become a go-to song for conveying sadness, decoupled from any holiday-specific meaning.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:28 PM on November 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's true that you couldn't get anything like this on TV today. Even 30 years ago you could see real melancholy specials like The Snowman, but in a post-Shrek world, everything has to be snarky and "current", it seems.

My fantasy melancholy Christmas special today would have Sufjan Stevens as the soundtrack.
posted by Cash4Lead at 3:34 PM on November 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's true that you couldn't get anything like this on TV today. Even 30 years ago you could see real melancholy specials like The Snowman, but in a post-Shrek world, everything has to be snarky and "current", it seems.

It's not a special, but recent Adventure Time really channels similar emotions.
posted by drezdn at 3:41 PM on November 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


One of my favorite things about the Christmas special is that Charlie Brown rails against the commercialization of Christmas, so what do They do? They make a plastic Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

…and it's the top seller on Amazon.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:57 PM on November 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


In a just world, every airing would be immediately preceded by this (it originally aired on CBS).
posted by schoolgirl report at 5:28 PM on November 30


AND SPONSORED BY DOLLY MADISON'S "NEAT-TO-EAT" TREATS!
posted by magstheaxe at 4:34 PM on November 30, 2015 [14 favorites]


This is the song Lee Mendelson heard that made him get in touch with Vince Guaraldi about writing the music for the show.
posted by lagomorphius at 4:58 PM on November 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


And sponsored by York Peppermint Patty!
posted by pxe2000 at 5:15 PM on November 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Drummer from Vince Guarialdi Trio is last remaining alive from the music. He's Canadian and CBC did a little story on it today due to the anniversary.
posted by chapps at 5:29 PM on November 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


It doesn't only suggest Christmas is really about the Bible story; it suggests Christmas is also really about friends, dogs, cooperating, the beauty of humble things, singing out loud, and hope.

To be fair, the Bible suggests Christmas is about those things, too.

My favorite moment in A Charlie Brown Christmas is when Linus recites the angelic proclamation "Fear not!" At just that instant, he drops his security blanket, and it stays on the floor until he is done. Perfect.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:40 PM on November 30, 2015 [25 favorites]


Well, the hour-long "yay it's Charlie Brown's 50th anniversary" thing is sappy as all hell, and probably would have made Charles Schulz spit tacks.

But I've just learned that FERGIE voiced Sally for some of the specials. And you got to hear Barack Obama do an imitation of the teachers in the specials - "I won't talk long, because we know all adults sound like 'wha-wha-wha-wha...."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:47 PM on November 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


The Vince Guaraldi Trio soundtrack album is one of few holiday albums I voluntarily listen to multiple times each December. It's short, but it's so perfect. As a kid I always felt that tinge of melancholy alongside the manic heavily commercialized Christmas cheer, and found the minor-key Christmas carols to be the most compelling. (Holy smokes, that verse about Myrrh in We Three Kings!)
posted by usonian at 5:48 PM on November 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


(Sorry, I mean, minor carols in general, not just on the Vince Guaraldi Trio album.)
posted by usonian at 5:49 PM on November 30, 2015


My favorite moment in A Charlie Brown Christmas is when Linus recites the angelic proclamation "Fear not!" At just that instant, he drops his security blanket, and it stays on the floor until he is done. Perfect.

I missed that, and it is perfect. Thank you.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:55 PM on November 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


(This post made me realize that the Sweden's animated Christmas classic, Sagan om Karl-Bertil Jonssons julafton, about a kid that steals Christmas gifts from the rich and gives them to the poor, celebrates 40 years this year. Also well known for it's excellent jazz theme.)
posted by effbot at 6:57 PM on November 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


I get where Chuck was coming from, but for me, Christmas cheer was always about being heavily commercialised. About buying presents, and stores putting up decorations and fake snow and flashing lights.
I really miss the fake-cheer store clerks get in the US around Christmas, here in Chile everybody stays sincerely grumpy all year round.
posted by signal at 6:58 PM on November 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


One of my favorite things about the Christmas special is that Charlie Brown rails against the commercialization of Christmas, so what do They do? They make a plastic Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

I just bought that tree! It arrived today and goes up in my office tomorrow <3
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:05 PM on November 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


*clenches jaw*
posted by entropicamericana at 7:21 PM on November 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't celebrate Christmas, but I love the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. I like the music. I'm old enough to remember The REAL Peanuts strip.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:21 PM on November 30, 2015


The Ultimate Charlie Brown Christmas tree is a dried tumbleweed, stuck in a coffee - can using plaster of Paris, spray painted green and white, with glitter on the white. It should be decorated with earrings, and paper chains and a handful of tinsel.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:25 PM on November 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Charlie Brown Christmas Dances, Ranked.
posted by emjaybee at 7:41 PM on November 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


I must have dozed off. Is it the end of December already?
posted by LeLiLo at 7:47 PM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


It was one of the highlights of my aunt-hood this year when my niece and nephew were excitedly telling me they were going to see the Peanuts movie soon, and I asked if they'd seen the Christmas special. They couldn't remember. I also asked if they'd ever seen Snoopy dance.

"Show us how he dances!" They asked.

Well. I HAD to, of course.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:52 PM on November 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


magstheaxe: AND SPONSORED BY DOLLY MADISON'S "NEAT-TO-EAT" TREATS!

The real old-timers may remember when it was sponsored by your local Coca-cola bottler.
posted by dr_dank at 8:15 PM on November 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


It was never long enough.

They never are.
posted by clavdivs at 8:29 PM on November 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


To be fair, the Bible suggests Christmas is about those things, too.

Fair point. The idea of a divide between religious doctrine and day-to-day behavior comes up a lot in the culture, I feel like, but it doesn't come from the Bible.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 9:09 PM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Guaraldi is basically the score to my Christmas every year.

This is true for me whether I want it or not. There is a remix medley going over the muzak of a coffee shop/bookstore I frequent that messes with the songs in annoying ways, and it's worse because at first I think it's starting off with good ol' by-the-numbers Linus And Lucy, but then dammit those notes are wrong, and then it segues into Christmastime Is Here, and I end up feeling like the elves are now forever gone to Valinor and have left us in the cold old world.

Ah well, at least it isn't You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch sung by a soprano, or Simply Having A Wonderful Obnoxious Song, two other seasonal offenses.
posted by JHarris at 9:13 PM on November 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Going around on the tumblbooks.

(Found, weirdly enough, via Bing, which *also* managed to provide it in the context of the original creator's page! It's an Osirismas miracle!)
posted by mwhybark at 9:21 PM on November 30, 2015 [5 favorites]




Just watched the special. It was pretty standard fare. Not enough focus on Guaraldi and his music, but whatevs. The Pres. and First Lady bit was nice.
posted by davidmsc at 9:36 PM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Los Straightjackets do a nice take on "Linus and Lucy".
posted by TDavis at 10:06 PM on November 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


The Ultimate Charlie Brown Christmas tree is a dried tumbleweed...

If you have never tried to pick up a tumbleweed in person, be warned: they are VERY pointy. If you find one that is already dry and tumbling, pick it up by the root, as seen here on an Australian webpage that notes the plant has "sharp pointy leaves that not only penetrated heavy leather gloves, but easily lacerated horse's legs."

This has been your Southwestern Fact of the Moment. We'll return you now to your regularly scheduled program.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:21 PM on November 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


This week's The Incomparable podcast covers the amazing three-year series of 1964’s “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” 1965’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and 1966’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

It's titled "Rudolph’s Hideous Mutation" and it really is a good listen.

And now if you will excuse me, I am off to look for a Zinger or a Dolly Madison pie.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:10 AM on December 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


One of my favorite things about the Christmas special is that Charlie Brown rails against the commercialization of Christmas, so what do They do? They make a plastic Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

I just bought that tree! It arrived today and goes up in my office tomorrow


Guys, I was putting the tree together this morning, and while I was tinkering with it for the second time, the red ball fell off, rolled from the desk onto the radiator, and shattered. EVERYTHING I TOUCH GETS RUINED.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:12 AM on December 1, 2015 [13 favorites]


You just need magical kids to wave their hands in front of it to fix it.
posted by drezdn at 6:27 AM on December 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


effbot: Also well known for it's excellent jazz theme.

Dang, that is an awesome song -- thank you!

What other countries have good holiday music that I could mix in with Vince Guaraldi, the Believers, Butch Thompson, and that track?
posted by wenestvedt at 6:29 AM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


And what other countries have well-loved holiday specials? I sense an FPP in the making.

I found one that sort of went in that direction.
I think it's how I discovered the ridiculous Dinner for One.
posted by Miko at 7:31 AM on December 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


And what other countries have well-loved holiday specials?

I had a Swedish guy sublet in my apartment for a month, and he said that the big holiday special in Sweden was a rebroadcast of a Donald Duck cartoon from about 1958.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:09 AM on December 1, 2015 [3 favorites]




The Disney holiday special at 3pm on Christmas Eve signals that it's time to stop preparing and time to sit down and get ready for food and presents (Sweden celebrates on the 24th, not the 25th). Jonsson is more about getting the right Christmas feelings, reminding you that it's Christmas time etc. (but ymmv, of course).

(well, I guess these days you know it's Christmas since there's always some random internet outrage when the changes in this year's Disney edition are announced, be it removing a pickaninny doll when upgrading to HD or something more trivial.)
posted by effbot at 11:35 AM on December 1, 2015


I neglected to mention it in my older FPP, but the tradition in Japan is to claim you watched the music program Kōhaku Uta-Gassen but to actually watch Gaki-tsuka where four comedians are taken through absurd situations for 24 hours and punished physically if they laugh at any point
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:00 PM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


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