A case for A Charlie Brown Christmas, one of the most iconic holiday specials of all time
By Colin Macgillivray, Arts Editor
December is upon us. With brisk mornings, a never-ending bloodlust for ‘stuff’ and extravagant displays of lights brings with it a horse-drawn carriage of holiday-themed entertainment. Each year, we happily gobble up reruns of Macaulay Culkin’s performance as a child sadist, bent on torturing two dim-witted thieves. We clap with glee as perennial man-child Will Ferrell whimsically woo’s Zooey Deschanel with his inappropriate social skills while dressed in elf garb. We yearn for Michael Bublé, the Christmas king, to sing sweet nothings into our ear as we decorate a tree in his honour. All in all, we buy into the commercialism of Christmas.
There’s no denying it either. We’re constantly coaxed by commercials, friends and family to buy into the capitalist exploitation of the holiday spirit. Secret Santa exchanges become a breeding ground for one-upmanship, with those who spend the minimum feeling cuckolded by Christmas itself. There are an enormity of Christmas clashes around the dinner table, too, as your uncle, who you haven’t seen since last Christmas, doesn’t appreciate your gift of eggnog-scented body wash. In the end, there’s a looming sense of anxiety as we’re urged to buy in to the holidays in the most literal sense.
Pretty grim, hey?
Enter A Charlie Brown Christmas, the semi-centennial classic that remains a poignant exploration into holiday-season commercialism, through the eyes of our favourite Peanuts personas.
Since its release in 1965, the special has become quintessential viewing — a 25-minute story of the ever-melancholic Charlie Brown and his struggle to find the true meaning of Christmas in the face of the aforementioned Christmas commercialism coax.
The everlasting brilliance of A Charlie Brown Christmas is the way it still manages to capture the intrinsic sadness we all, at one point, have faced during the holidays. The star of the show, apart from the relatable narrative, is the soundtrack, something that has ensured the special has remained must-watch after more than five decades.
From the muted, melancholic ode to classic Christmas songs with “Hark The Herald Angels, Sings” and “O Tannenbaum” and their frenetically paced, irreplaceable piano ballad on “Linus and Lucy,” the Vince Guaraldi Trio exemplify the occasional dejection that lingers around the holiday season.
Nostalgia is a factor, sure, but no one can deny that the trio’s rendition of “The Christmas Song” doesn’t make you tear up at the best of times. It’s a perfect soundtrack that exemplifies both the warmness that is present during the holidays and forlorn feelings many seem to share when it comes to childhood, holiday memories.
A Charlie Brown Christmas is both a viewing and listening staple in December. For those feeling dejected when Christmas comes around, it’s impossible not to relate to Charlie Brown. Speaking to Linus, he states, “I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.”
At the best of times, the holidays are an uplifting time in which friends and family get together and celebrate another year gone by. At the worst of times, it can be an anxiety-riddled month that is incredibly painful for some. A Charlie Brown Christmas captures both of these sentiments perfectly and leaves us with the most important message of the holiday season — be kind to others, bring joy where you can and regardless of your background or circumstance, welcome everyone with open arms.