You're a Wonderful Blockhead Charlie Brown
reflections on A Charlie Brown Christmas
Christmas time is
Happiness and cheer.
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year.
These lyrics are betrayed by the melancholy, somber piano tinkling and minor-key singing. The message is happiness, but the feeling says something else.
"I don't feel the way I'm supposed to feel."
Sometimes our inner feeling doesn't match what is expected of us in a time of cheer and good will towards men. Why do we balk when faced with the crushing expectation of buying presents? Why do Christmas decorations come out before Halloween? Why is there an innate resistance to the coming of Christmas?
"I know nobody likes me, why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?"
I'm not going to talk about how the holidays make some people feel even lonelier and more depressed than the rest of the year. While that is true for some, it is not the case for me. I love the Holidays. I love Thanksgiving with family and plates full of home-cooked food. I love Christmas around the tree and sitting near the fire with some egg nog, or a glass of spiced mead. But like Charlie Brown, it’s hard to reconcile the hype with reality. Will I get a Lexus for Christmas like the TV says I should?
"Instead of feeling happy, I feel sort of let down."
Charlie Brown is not alone. Lucy admits she is also depressed, but for a different reason. She is not depressed over the commercialism of Christmas, the failure to feel how she believes she should feel, or the nagging sense of alienation. No, she is depressed because she just gets stupid toys or clothes, instead of what she really wants. What she really wants is real estate.
"Christmas is not only getting too commercial, it's getting too dangerous." Linus
Linus is a sympathizer. He sticks by Charlie Brown when the other kids laugh at him. And he just about gets bonked in the nose by Lucy for his resistance to her ultimate plan for the Christmas play.
“A great big shiny aluminum Christmas tree. That's it Charlie Brown. Go get the tree." Lucy
His worst fears are realized when he not only fails at directing the play, but is put upon to find the tree that will save everything. Linus and Charlie Brown walk underneath looming towers of clunky metal being sold as Christmas trees. They sparkle. They shine. They glitter. And they are nothing like what he wants. As we all know, he finds the smallest, most humble tree in the lot, and knows instantly that it is the one.
"Boy are you stupid Charlie Brown... completely hopeless."
But instead of the underdog making good, they all laugh at him and his tree. Even his own dog joins in the chorus of ridicule! Charlie Brown is confused, depressed, alone, and now he’s getting laughed at. But he musters up enough strength to take one more stand.
“Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about!?”
Silence. Finally, thankfully, mercifully, some calm and sense is brought to the scene by the boy who sucks his thumb. Linus recites the Christmas story and tells about the shepherds coming to find the Christ child. Reaffirmed, Charlie Brown picks up his tree, smiles, and walks right past the now silent gang. He walks outside, into the snow, and under the twinkling stars. And the gang soon follows after him.
"Charlie Brown is a blockhead, but he did get a nice tree."
They have had a change of heart and spontaneously take Christmas decorations from Snoopy’s award-winning doghouse and put them on the little tree. The tree becomes dignified as if all it needed was a little attention and love. Then the gang starts humming, and soon, they begin to sing “Hark the Herald Angels, glory to the newborn king.” It’s a scene of togetherness and even if Charlie Brown is a blockhead, for the moment, he is loved.
"Merry Christmas Charlie Brown!"
But I think the show ends where it begins. The end of the opening songs contains these lyrics:
Christmas time is
We'll be drawing near.
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year.
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year...
Even the song knows that such moments are fleeting. Could we stand it if they weren’t? Could we live in a world with overflowing love and acceptance, where Charlie Brown is always one of the gang, where families gather often for times of warmth and love? Don’t we like boundaries and enemies? Don't we like some friends and families held at a comfortable distance? Don’t we embrace our “us” versus their “them?”
So, yes, Merry Christmas Charlie Brown. Enjoy the time while it lasts. I know I will, I truly will. But I’ll be back to work on Friday.