Fifty-five years ago today, a holiday tradition was born when the first-ever Peanuts animated special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, premiered on CBS.
Peanuts was a massively influential newspaper comic strip created by Charles M. Schulz that became so popular that even after Schulz's death in 2000, reruns continue to be published in newspapers everywhere.
The simple story of A Charlie Brown Christmas is a perfect example of Schulz's sensibility. Charlie Brown's attempts to direct the Christmas play continually go awry, and instead of respecting his authority, the kids dance around to Vince Guaraldi's now-iconic jazz tune "Linus & Lucy," which basically just became known as the Peanuts theme song and is heard often every holiday season.
His disillusionment with the commercialization of the holiday leads him to choose the sickliest-looking tree as the centerpiece for the show, much to the consternation of his cast. Then, Linus delivers the true meaning of Christmas by calling for "lights please" and then dramatically reciting Luke 2: 8-14 from the Bible.
This inspires the kids to decorate the little tree and fix it all up, allowing Charlie Brown to have a merry Christmas after all.
It's quiet and emotional in a way that most cartoons aren't anymore, and it still stirs the heartstrings regardless of religious persuasion.
Apple acquired the exclusive rights to the Peanuts holiday specials for its Apple TV+ subscription service this year, which makes 2020 the first time since 1955 that A Charlie Brown Christmas will not air on network TV. Non-subscribers have a few options, however: Apple is making the special free for all to watch December 11-13, and has shared the special with PBS for a special airing this Sunday, December 13th at 7:30 PM.
Andy Hunsaker has a head full of sitcom gags and nerd-genre lore, and can be followed @AndyHunsaker if you're into that sort of thing.