History of A Charlie Brown Christmas
On December 9, 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas premiered on CBS TV as a 30-minute animated Christmas special written by Charles M. Schulz, creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip. The comic was hugely popular when the TV special debuted.
Though this was not Schulz’s first TV special — that would be 1963’s “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” — nor the last, it would become the most enduring. It is a staple of holiday viewing today, and Christmas is not complete without gathering the family and friends around the TV to watch it.
San Francisco Bay Area musician Vince Guaraldi, known at the time for his instrumental hit “Cast Your Fate To The Wind,” provided what was then an unusually melancholy jazz soundtrack along with traditional and classical music for the special. Along with producer Lee Mendelson, it took Shultz a day to outline the story for the sponsor Coca-Cola, weeks to write it, and six months to film.
Biblical Reference in A Charlie Brown Christmas
This was unusual among Christmas specials, directly and overtly relating the religious nature of the holiday; the producer was concerned that would make it controversial, and the network had its qualms. Many were anxious about it and thought it would not be successful, but Charles Schulz was most insistent that the true meaning of Christmas should be captured in the biblical story of the birth of Jesus. Schulz’s faith was deep and personal, and he asked the producer:
“If we don’t do it, who will?”
Note: If you observe carefully during that scene, the only time you see Linus without his security blanket is when he recites the line “Fear not!”
Response to A Charlie Brown Christmas
Nevertheless, it won both a Peabody Award and an Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Program. It was voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and the Library of Congress added it to the National Recording Registry. The soundtrack went triple platinum. Live stage productions were made of it; there’s even an app for it.
A Charlie Brown Locale
The Punch Line
I have watched A Charlie Brown Christmas every year for over half a century. It never fails to move me when I hear Linus say with simplicity and innocent profundity:
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: And they were sore afraid.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth, peace
good will towards men.
…That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
Merry Christmas to all the Charlie Browns in the world!
Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian
Another interesting fact: Charles Schultz lived in Colorado Springs in the 50’s. Several couples played cards together. Lucy VanPelt is taken from one of the women and Schroder is after her husband. Lu and Phil VanPelt. They lived next door to my folks for nearly 50 years.
Thanks Ricki. Yes, he lived in Colorado Springs for a year or two back in 1951. His neighbors Philip and Louanna Van Pelt were the basis for his characters Schroeder and Lucy. They had a couple of small children named Linus and Lucy.
His house is still around, about 6 miles from where I live here in Colorado Springs. This is what it looks like now: https://csdailyphoto.blogspot.com/2009/07/famous-colorado-springs-residents_07.html