Forty years ago, A Charlie Brown Christmas debuted on television. I've thought long and hard about what that means to me, as an admitted Agnostic and non-believer in organized religion. In years past, I wrestled with my love of Christmas music and, as all of us have at some point, wondered through the commercialism and secularization of today's politically correct Holiday Season what Christmas, what this time of year, is all about.
As a kid, I was attracted to the Charlie Brown Christmas special despite my already decidely non-religious leanings. I knew what I was supposed to believe about God and Christianity and followed it as well as any non-believing child could. Looking at Charlie Brown Christmas as a sermon, I thought the most important message in it was Linus's recititation of the Holy Bible's Luke 2:8-14—Christ is born! But can that roughly thirty-second piece of dialogue be the real, entire message of the children's show? Could religious claptrap and propaganda really make me feel so warm and gooey inside? Isn't there anyone who can tell me what that special is all about??
Here's what I figured out, all by myself. Like Charlie Brown in his seasonal cartoon, we generally search for something greater than ourselves, be it religion, enlightment, or even fatalism. As we age, we wonder where we came from as individuals and as a life form. We contemplate the passage of time, the transience of the present, and the uncertainty of the future. Where Charlie Brown wondered what Christmas was all about, we wonder what the grand It is all about. He found his answer in the words of the Bible (as quoted by Linus, whose It ironically was a security blanket—literally!). But Charlie Brown's reaction to his epiphany (pardon the pun) wasn't to fall to his knees and thank his Lord, it was to continue living and make what he could of his everyday life. In the cartoon world of Peanuts, it meant decorating a lonely little pine tree with a little help from his friends, or trying to kick that football no matter how many times Lucy pulled it away from him. For us, it means laughing through tears, surrounding ourselves with people we love and respect, and continuing our search of It wherever we may end up. That's why A Charlie Brown Christmas remains popular in our American culture; once a year, it reminds us what It is all about.
©2005, Robert A. Geise - May not be reprinted without express permission. Hot-linking welcome.