A beloved holiday television tradition for generations of American families, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” premiered on December 9, 1965, despite fears of network failure.
According to several accounts of broadcasting history, expectations for its success were low.
CBS executives were surprised by the slow pace of production; and the network had fought behind the scenes with “Peanuts” creator Charles M. Schulz to include a scene lifted straight from the New Testament.
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The animation was weird. There was no laughter. Real children, not trained voice actors, spoke for the characters.
Peter Robbins, the voice of Charlie Brown, was only nine years old at the time. (Robbins died in January 2022 at the age of 65).
Despite the scare, the American public loved “A Charlie Brown Christmas” from the moment it hit the airwaves.
“On Thursday, December 9, 1965, more than 15 million households tuned in to judge for themselves,” Smithsonian Magazine wrote in a pamphlet on the program’s history.
“Almost half of America’s television sets have seen a network fail.” – Smithsonian Magazine
“The reception would turn the special into a classic. CBS soon learned that nearly half of America’s TV audience was watching what the network thought would be a screw-up.”
A Charlie Brown Christmas continues to warm the hearts of millions around the world every holiday season.
Several polls rank it as America’s favorite Christmas.
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A seemingly simple children’s cartoon is a deceptively rich and layered work of American art.
A Charlie Brown Christmas combines innovative animation techniques with a critically acclaimed jazz soundtrack, while its school-aged characters grapple with the very mature theme of the true meaning of Christmas in an overtly commercial society.
Children love characters with unique characteristics who live in a world where adults seem to be absent.
The “Nuts” gang was first popularized in a syndicated comic strip by Schulz that debuted in 1950.
Charlie Brown was instructed to find “a great big shiny aluminum Christmas tree … painted pink” to set the holiday spirit.
Adults enjoy childhood memories. Many find themselves struggling with the same struggle—finding purpose in a holiday where their spiritual foundations come under greater attack each year.
“Look, Charlie, let’s face it. We all know Christmas is a big commercial racket,” says a cynical Lucy as the Peanuts gang tries to put on a Christmas play.
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“You know, it’s run by the Big East Syndicate.”
When Charlie Brown is instructed to find “a great big shiny aluminum Christmas tree … painted pink” to set the holiday spirit, the lively and energetic Vince Guaraldi Trio of “Linus and Lucy” performs will be done.
Guaraldi’s soundtrack features 11 jazz recordings, a masterful combination of instrumental and vocal tunes.
It features originals from a Californian jazz pianist (“Skating” and others), a Beethoven masterpiece (“Fur Elise”), a traditional folk tune (“O Tannenbaum”) and a Mel Torme pop holiday classic (“A Christmas Carol”). have compositions. ).
In a 2015 retrospective celebrating the 50th anniversary of Guaraldi’s writing, Rolling Stone wrote, “The genius of the Charlie Brown Christmas movie was its way of channeling the sadness and anxiety that come with the holidays.”
“His timeless, best-selling soundtrack by the Vince Guaraldi Trio infuses this story with effortless, melodic jazz.”
But central to the program’s popularity is its overt take on the birth of Christ—a fact often overlooked in children’s Christmas specials about magical snowmen and flying reindeer.
BIBLE VERSE: GOD IS CLOSER TO US IN DARK TIMES, SAYS THE PROPHET
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” reaches its climax as the frustrated protagonist cries out, “Doesn’t anyone know what Christmas is?!”
Linus responds with a dramatic Shakespearean moment.
“Of course, Charlie Brown.” I can tell you what Christmas is all about.
He takes the stage by himself, in the spotlight, and quotes the Christmas story verbatim as it appears in the King James Version of Luke.
“In that country, shepherds stayed in the fields and guarded their flocks at night.
“Behold, the angel of the Lord descended upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
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“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for I bring you good tidings of joy unto all men.
“For today in the city of David is born to you a Savior, who is the Lord Christ.
“And this will be a sign to you; you will find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
“And suddenly many heavenly hosts appeared with the angel, glorifying God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will to men.”
“For today in the city of David is born to you a Savior, who is the Lord Christ.”
Linus follows his Bible homily by announcing to his current soul mate, “And that, Charlie Brown, is what Christmas is all about.”
The gang then gathers around Charlie Brown’s once ugly and withered but now loved and lush little Christmas tree to embrace the birth of the Redeemer.
“The angels of Hark sing; glory to the new-born king,” the Peanuts gang sings as the credits roll.
“No” Good grief! At the end,” wrote The Christian Chronicle in a review of the timeless TV classic.
“Only the silent acknowledgment of good grace, the grace of God, the gift of his infant Son, the Lord Christ, is the greatest miracle of them all.”