Why I Love the Peanuts Holiday Specials and You Should Too
In 2003, I was given a really special gift - The Peanuts Holiday Special Box Set. If you know me at all, you know that Snoopy is my all-time favorite character. Right now, I'm staring at the Peanuts Christmas Play wall jigglers I keep year-round on my office door and behind me sit the Charlie Brown, Woodstock and Snoopy stuffed animals that I saved from the dreaded "USED" bags from one of our 911 Gives Hope for the Holiday toy drives. We can't give sick kids used stuffed animals, people! And, that's just my office; you should see my house during the holidays.
It was recently announced that the previous decision to only stream The Peanuts holiday specials on Apple TV was overturned and now you'll be able to watch the Thanksgiving special ad-free on PBS on Nov. 22 and the Christmas special on Dec. 13.
All was right with the world until I saw a comment on Facebook from a co-worker. This co-worker, who shall also remain nameless stated, "I've got to be the only person who didn't grow up with this. I watched it for the first time at like 15 and thought it was awful. And I have a hard time getting through it today. SOMEONE SHOW ME THE LIGHT. I want to be a part of the elite!"
So, dear co-worker, and all those like her, let me show you the light.
It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
As I watched this movie with my daughter last weekend, I noticed something that I had never noticed before: these kids' parents got it right. There are no expensive Pinterested Halloween costumes that light up and are hand-made with love. Nope, they wear sheets with holes cut out of them - some more than others. Then, they attend a Halloween party where they bob for apples and dance and everyone is satisfied. No haunted house theme, no cookies in the shape of individualized monsters - juuuussstttt apples, that's it! Bonus: they let their elementary schoolers stay out all night and don't ask questions. We don't even know if it's a school night. I mean, only in the Seventies, right?
Bottom line: Linus never stops believing in that great pumpkin. Even when others bash him and sneer at his convictions, he stays true to who he is and there's a fantastic Red Baron scene somewhere in the middle.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
A particular favorite for me with another common theme - lack of parents' involvement. My kids would have come begging me for help with an extravagant meal. Charlie Brown, well he sucks it up and makes toast for the hoard of ingrates.
Bottom line: Thanksgiving is about being thankful, not food. And in the end Grandmothers always come through, always.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Okay, this one is my all time favorite and it becomes more-so as I get older. When you're a kid the holidays are all about toys, food and fun! As an adult, it's about all the gazillion things you have to get done and the gazillion parties you have to squash in before December 25th. I aint even mad they hold Christmas sales in July - you can get the shopping done before the rush hits (not that I ever do).
Bottom Line: Sometimes, I get overwhelmed or blue in the holiday season because I feel like it's NOT PERFECT. My tree is crooked and my worn out decorations don't match. I lose sight of what Christmas is all about and Charlie, Snoopy and the gang are there to remind me every single year.
It's so refreshing that network TV allows this message to be broadcast though even from the beginning, executives almost didn't allow the film to air because of the unorthodox nature of the film and sharp contrast of usual television techniques that were popular at the time such as hiring child voice talent instead of high pitched adults, scoring with jazz music and abstaining from using a laugh track. The tone and pace of the movie contradict almost everything we value in our TV watching experience but it has become an annual broadcast - showing twice on ABC during the Christmas season each year and has become an international phenomenon.
Why are the Peanuts gang so loved despite the television specials being so completely opposite the norm? I think it's because of the universal truths that each of the characters bring to the table. These movies mimic our own lives, our own holidays and our own characteristics and every time, every year we find encouragement in seeing the saddened, frustrated and downtrodden rise to the occasion.
Peanuts taught us to hold true to our convictions, no matter who is telling you that you are wrong. Peanuts taught us to do your best, and keep trying even if you never kick that football and Peanuts taught us the true meaning of Christmas.