I stayed up to watch some TV in the hotel lounge. We were traveling over the Thanksgiving weekend and the hotel stop got us off the road after fourteen hours of fighting Interstate traffic. We were only half-way home. The staff had the video tuned to the Hallmark Channel, giving the lounge a family-friendly atmosphere on what might be considered the Family Travel weekend of the year. There were plenty of families coming in and out and the nature of the Hallmark Channel programming created that safe environment a business could desire to set for just such a weekend.
I watched as the story unfolded about a ‘yuppie’ daughter of a real estate tycoon scouted a newly acquired, family operated ski lodge and property to create the marketing for their company’s clientele. Christmas season is the key to the lodge’s success and the focal point for the community’s celebrations every year. The young woman is reintroduced to traditions she enjoyed as a child before her mother passed and her father turned stone-cold to the season. The ski lodge owner’s similar aged cynical son rediscovers the same as he introduces the young woman to each of the traditions. The requisite Hallmark Channel ending finds the young couple in love and engaged, the lodge management remaining in the family, and father-an-daughter reunited to the holiday joys shared and in some small way with the woman who departed their lives so early on.
I was saddened. The entire wonderful experience of the Christmas season and morning and there was not one mention about the reason for the celebration. It was one more reminder to me of how our social values have changed in my lifetime. Christmas is simply a winter festival when we are supposed to remind ourselves to treat each other well, even our enemies, and offer gifts to each other as a symbolic gesture.
I recognized the beginning of this change when I watched ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ early in my life. I watched it from the first broadcast on CBS in 1965 (I was six y/o) and every year after until I was in high school and working. Probably what caught my awakening consciousness was the aluminum Christmas trees. My family had what was called the bottle-brush tree that was all aluminum. It was small, a foot or so, and was always in the kitchen. My Mom’s aunt had a full six-foot aluminum tree in her living room and to light it there was a motor driven color wheel that rotated through a spectrum of primary and secondary colors. Charlie Brown’s and Linus’s trip to find a tree for their Christmas play sent a message I heard loud and clear as a youth. This is not what Christmas is about.
Over the course of my fifty-six years I have witnessed the attempted removal of ‘Christ’ from ‘Christ’-mas, the increase in the shopping season from those few weeks before the day to a beginning at the Labor Day end-of-summer, and of course the expansion of that Black Friday shopping spree from the normal ten a.m. store opening to now nearly two decades of people trampling over each other beginning after Thanksgiving dinner. No longer do we refurbish older toys with love and pass them to others via the Marine Corps Toys for Tots, but we are told to bring brand new toys.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” isn’t a show we wait to watch on TV once-a-year during the season. Now it can be streamed from the Internet, viewed on YouTube, or watched on some form of video data storage device. Charles Schulz left us a legacy of a reminder though. Here’s the monologue Linus delivers to remind us why we celebrate Christmas:
Charlie Brown: Isn’t there anyone, who knows what Christmas is all about?!
Linus: Sure Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about. Lights please?
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 tidings o great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, 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, and good will toward men.
That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
Here’s the scene on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZw06AbW6Vw
Snoopy’s award-winning decorations pale in the face of modern, computer controlled thousand light displays with the figures and music blaring throughout the neighborhood. They decorate Charlie Brown’s tree so brilliantly, though, and presents the focal point for a true Christmas carol that resounds from the same scriptures Linus so eloquently quoted. So, as the characters choral present ‘Hark, the Harold Angels Sing’, I wish you a blessed and peaceful Christmas.