On Dec. 9, 1965, a new Christmas classic was born. That evening, an estimated 15,490,000 people sat down to watch the premiere presentation of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on their television sets. Since then, millions more people have watched this heartwarming Peanuts cartoon on video or in its annual re-broadcasts on network television.
As Charlie Brown, who has been disheartened by the commercialization of Christmas, learns about the true meaning of Christmas, so do we afresh each time we watch the program.
Produced on a shoestring budget and not expected to air more than once, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was received enthusiastically by viewers and critics alike and went on to win an Emmy and a Peabody award. The holiday program hit a chord with viewers on almost every level. It still does.
It is funny and sweet. It contains the words of the Bible – specifically the Gospel of Luke – without being threatening to non-believers. It also features an amazing original jazz score by pianist Vince Guaraldi. Quite simply, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” has proven to be timeless.
As a result, over the past five decades Peanuts nativity sets have become both a fun and meaningful way to celebrate Christmas in many homes.
In the cartoon, Lucy directs members of the Peanuts gang in a school nativity play. Therefore, nativity sets depicting the Peanuts gang in costume allow children to reenact the program and, by doing, so, to learn more about the very first Christmas.
Companies such as Hallmark and Lenox have created special Peanuts collector nativity sets with the Peanuts characters. These sets are more decorative in nature, but some companies also have made Peanuts nativity sets as toys for children. Many people construct their own Peanuts outdoor nativity sets with plywood.
The Peanuts Christmas Nativity Deluxe Figure Set ($19.94), for example, is a popular holiday seller both online and in toy stores. It features a manger as well as colorful plastic figures of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Sally and Peppermint Patty. At about three inches tall each, the figures are great for little hands to move and hold.
A visit to Pinterest reveals the enduring affection we have for the message of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and for the Charles Schultz comic strip in general. There are several examples of vintage and newer Peanuts nativity sets along with comments by avid collectors.
In his book, In the Dark: A Memoir of Religious Initiation, Doubt, Rebellion, and Discovery, writer Scott Stickney expresses well why “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and, by extension, Peanuts nativity sets are so popular.
“The somber tale of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” became salve for my soul. Recorded with a children’s choir, child voice actors also brought the Peanuts characters to life with innocence that allowed our Santa Rosa celebrity Charles Schulz to emphasize emotions over laughter.
He continues: “In the context of the mid-sixties when unprecedented change was steamrolling across the landscape of America, the account of Jesus’ birth as recorded in Luke 2:8-14 was recited faithfully by Linus with his unique lisp. Accomplished in the stark quietness of the school’s theater, without Guaraldi’s music or antics from the other Peanuts characters to distract, I was knocked over by the simplicity of the presentation. And almost every year of my young life this original Christmas story had been taught, I responded as if hearing it for the very first time.”