In 1965, television station CBS was looking for a new Christmas special to air that season. They reached out to one of the most famous cartoonists in the country, Charles M. Schultz, to write the program and draw the cels, which would be animated by Bill Melendez. Schultz’s syndicated newspaper comic Peanuts was beloved by pretty much everyone, so the TV show was expected to be a hit. From inception to airing took six months — an incredibly short amount of time, especially considering that everything back then was done by hand.
And a hit it was. A Charlie Brown Christmas has been shown every holiday season for fifty-four years. (Although it currently appears on ABC.)
Schultz was an ardent Christian. He insisted that the show must not only address the crass commercialism of the Christmas season, but also include a scripture reading to emphasize the religious significance of it. This scared the producers no end; nothing like that had ever been done before in prime time. But they went along with his wishes nonetheless. Personally, I’m glad they did; it is arguably the most poignant scene in the show — as it was meant to be.
Schultz wanted to point out how the holiday had become nothing but an excuse for widespread consumerism (“It’s run by a big Eastern syndicate, y’know,” Lucy conspiratorially tells Charlie). And he was hoping it might spark a kind of awakening in the country.
Well, that latter event never happened. But tens of millions of Americans find ourselves nodding along every year with Schultz’s basic premise: The season should be meaningful.
It should be a period when we contemplate something bigger than our personal selves, while at the same time realizing that we are an integral part of that something. We are, in fact, one with the Universe, and that realization naturally leads us to a greater understanding and acceptance of one another.
It’s a good occupation, even if it only lasts a few weeks.
So, though it’s been said many times, many ways: Merry Christmas! Happy Ḥănukkāh! Blesséd Yule! And Happy Holidays!