In A Charlie Brown Christmas, poor Charlie Brown just can’t get into the spirit of the season. The opening dialogue reveals much about the next 30 minutes, as Charlie tells Linus that he thinks “there must be something wrong with me,” because he can’t get with the program of Christmas.
He then articulates all the things that aren’t right with him and the season.
- Lacks understanding about the season
- Always ends up feeling depressed
Linus embodies friendship, while also demonstrating some tough love. He chides his buddy, “Chuck,” for being “flawed” because of his inability to get into Christmas, and taking a “perfectly wonderful season like Christmas, and turn(ing) it into a problem.” Most people are like Linus—at least those that love the holiday—in that they don’t get those of us that are more like Charlie Brown than Linus and the other Peanuts characters.
My melancholy at Christmastime (or, to remain PC, “The Holiday Season”) dates back as far as I can remember. That’s not to say that I don’t have fond memories of Christmas as a child.
Actually, the high-water mark for personal Yuletide memories are the extended family gatherings that took place when I was a wee tyke of seven, or eight. I got to see my cousins, favorite aunts and uncles; we had both sides of the family jammed into our ranch-style house on Woodland Avenue, and all seemed right with the world.
Probably it wasn’t as much fun for my mother, having to balance the logistics of food, where to shoehorn people in, and how things would work out with opposing sides of the family gathered under one roof, etc. But my recollections are that things went swimmingly.
I actually married into Christmas. My wife, Miss Mary, who I affectionately have dubbed “Mary Christmas” for her love of all things Christmas cheer, adores the December holiday, especially if it has a Peanuts orientation. No matter how much my behavior mimics Scrooge or even The Grinch, she’ll remain enthused right into the New Year.
Yet, despite having a sunny Christmas-lover as my bride, my sentiments still parallel Charlie Brown’s. From my less than joy-filled perspective, it does seem that the over-commercialization of the holiday overshadows all the other positive aspects—as if the only reason for the season is to shop, shop, shop—this only compounds my feelings. And with the commercial aspects, beginning earlier and earlier every year (think Black Friday), the dread now extends for a full six weeks.
At the point in the Charles M. Schulz classic when Charlie Brown and Linus leave the Christmas play rehearsal to find a tree, you know things aren’t going to go well for America’s most famous loveable loser. And it doesn’t. Letting his sentimental side to get in the way, Charlie Brown chooses a pathetic tree to bring back to the auditorium and present to the group.
Of course, he is castigated by the cast, being called “stupid,” “hopeless,” “dumb,” and then, the entire group begins laughing and mocking him, including his own dog, Snoopy. And then, he does what many of us have done, or what have done in that situation—he compounds it by beating himself up, agreeing with the group assessment. That’s Christmas in America—get with the program, or get out!
Then, Linus launches into his beautiful soliloquy, from the Gospel of Luke. I never watch this animated special without tearing up at this point. Linus nails it! He also demonstrates what friendship means, even when paired with a sad-sack like Charlie Brown.
While Christmas doesn’t have to be imbued with the kinds of religious significance that many Christians insist on for the day, it does seem to require being something more than just another orgy of consumption.
Of course that’s never going to change and in fact, will continue to be driven by retail sales reports and all manner of reporting that drives that never-ending November/December narrative. The real meaning of Christmas? There is none. Most Americans lack depth and as long as they haven’t maxed out their credit lines, they’ll just continue shopping and wondering why everyone else isn’t doing the same, while bitching about the crowds at the mall.
As for me, I’ll have to figure out a more creative way to get through the six-week slog that some still call Christmas, or now, the all-inclusive Holiday Season.