The Student Publication of Keystone

The Keynote

The Student Publication of Keystone

The Keynote

The Student Publication of Keystone

The Keynote

An Analysis of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”

(The Mercury News)

Is it Christmas? No. Is today an anniversary or perhaps the birthday of Charles M. Schulz, the creator of Peanuts? No. So why am I writing this article? Is it because I’m longing for the dreadful oven we call Texas to finally break free from the sun’s grasp and enter winter already? No… well maybe, but as far as you’re concerned, it’s simply for the sake of admiring the beauty of storytelling by none other than Schulz. Directed by Bill Melendez and adapted from the original Peanuts comic, A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) follows Charlie Brown and his typical existential thoughts; this time, Charlie Brown is trying to find out what Christmas really is after all the decorations, presents, parties and food are gone, leaving the festivity to nothing but its bare bones.

Although A Charlie Brown Christmas on the surface is just a lighthearted and heartwarming film for people to enjoy cuddled up in warm blankets with a freshly brewed cup of hot chocolate in hand made simply for the sake of the holiday spirit, the story emphasizes the importance of not losing sight of what Christmas is all about. This highlights the issue of today’s society, which capitalizes upon a Christian tradition and makes the festivity more about new toys or a shiny car rather than the original intent of the festivity. 

The film begins with Charlie Brown confessing to Linus behind the well-known brick wall that despite enjoying gift-giving and decorating, he can’t feel the Christmas spirit that seems to fill the hearts of everyone else in the winter. Linus jokingly tells him that he’s most likely the only person who can turn a holiday as happy and exciting as Christmas into something depressing. Although Linus’ words can’t simply be taken to heart, as he is a child, this dialogue between the two characters sets the tone for the conflict throughout the story. In this conversation, Charlie Brown represents the questioning of why Christmas is made out to be this way while Linus in this scene embodies those who enforce the idea of what a “jolly” Christmas is. 

When Charlie Brown asks Lucy, their neighborhood “psychiatrist,” about how to solve his issue with Christmas, she tells him he needs to get involved and assigns him to be the director of their school’s Christmas play. Although overwhelmed by this sudden responsibility laid onto him, Charlie Brown sets his mind to do the best at putting on a show about the origins of Christmas. However, even his dog, Snoopy, seems to be enticed by the commercialization of Christmas, decorating his doghouse to his heart’s content for the chance of winning a big money prize. Charlie Brown’s sister, Sally, is no exception either. She can’t help but ask for a long list of presents. Despite the comedic intent of these scenes, it stresses how Christmas has become a big money-making machine hidden in sheep’s clothing. 

Despite Charlie Brown’s strict directing and motivation to produce a good play, nothing seems to go right. With classmates refusing to learn their lines or work with others due to purely superficial reasons, cooperation is out of the question. He gets upset, saying “It’s all wrong” and Lucy responds saying, “Look, Charlie. Let’s face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket” explicitly admitting that Christmas is not what it’s preached to be anymore. Charlie Brown is determined not to allow this play to fall into the hands of commercialization and decides to get a proper Christmas tree. As Linus and Charlie Brown mosey through the plethora of tall dark red, cerulean blue, fuchsia pink, and bright orange aluminum Christmas trees, he catches sight of a young, twig-like tree with thin leaves barely hanging on. Despite the warning from Linus about Lucy’s remarks of a wooden tree’s un-modern-like spirit, Charlie takes it back to the theater to be greeted with angry classmates. 

After his fair share of derision, Charlie Brown admits that he doesn’t know what Christmas is all about asking if there is anyone who does to which Linus replies, “Sure Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” 

He then says a line from the Book of Luke, “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 the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 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 toward men” (Luke 2: 8-14).

 In short, Linus says that Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ, who had lived and sacrificed to save humankind, and the Lord for bringing happiness and love to them through him. He ends his recitation with a simple “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown” as if the message had been there the whole time.

Despite Linus’ impressive recitation of the Bible, the film doesn’t try to enforce Christian tradition upon the audience and instead ends with Charlie Brown and the cast of the play decorating the withered tree and singing “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing” together. A Charlie Brown Christmas finds a middle ground between the much-enjoyed modern-day Christmas traditions and keeping true to the origins of Christmas, showing viewers that everything can be good in moderation.

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About the Contributor
Valerie Huang
Valerie Huang, Grammar Editor
Hi! My name is Valerie! Some interests I have include photography, journalism, and creative writing. I also constantly have new ideas and questions floating in my head, which is probably why I enjoy debating and discussing current events anytime I can. I hope you enjoy my writing!

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