In 1965, an animated television special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” featuring child voices, a jazz score, no laugh track and produced on a shoestring budget, seemed destined for ratings failure.
But the uplifting message and the simplicity of the show resonated with audiences and it was a ratings success–still continuing to air every December some 50 years later.
The story, written by Charles Shultz, starts with Charlie Brown, who feels depressed about the Christmas season. He seeks out Lucy at her psychiatric booth. She tells him she can relate because she always gets toys for Christmas and never the gift she really wants: real estate. She advises him to get involved in a nativity play.
On the way to the auditorium, Charlie sees his dog Snoppy decorating his doghouse in over-the-top fashion, and hears Sally read her Christmas list of gifts (and if that fails, she says, just “tens and twenties”).
At the rehearsal, Charlie Brown is sent out to get a Christmas tree, maybe a “great big, shiny aluminum tree. . .maybe painted pink.”
Instead, he selects a tiny tree at the lot, a sad overlooked tree, and decides it will be perfect.
Arriving back at the auditorium, Charlie is scorned for the choice. He takes it home and starts to decorate it, to show others how it can work. When he places a red bulb on the tree, which he has borrowed from Snoopy’s abundance of decorations, the ornament bends the tree to the ground.
Eventually the other characters understand that the importance of Christmas isn’t tied up in commercialism. When Schulz wrote the story, he said his goal was to focus on the true meaning of Christmas.
Fast forward to December 12, 2019, when a Charlie Brown Christmas tree goes up on a table on the Village Green, joined by two ceramic Charlie Brown figurines.
Marge Gold, president of the nonprofit Village Green Committee, explained the choice. Every year for as long as residents can remember, lights were hung in the pine tree nearest the intersection of Antioch and Sunset Boulevard.
“Last year the lights on the pine tree were vandalized,” Gold said. “It would cost $450 to fix the electrical line and then $500 to replace the lights (they were shorted when the line was pulled).”
Since the little triangular park depends on donations for cleaning, tree trimming, fountain maintenance and repairs, the budget doesn’t allow for a lot of extras. Many of the Green’s board members, who look after the park, are well past the age of retirement.
“We’re too old to hang the lights ourselves,” said Gold, who noted that they asked several companies what they would charge to hang holiday lights. “We received estimates of $1,500 to $2,500.”
Board members didn’t want the season to go unmarked, so Gold came up with the idea for a Charlie Brown tree.
“We always called the tree we decorated our Charlie Brown tree,” Gold said, “Why not put up an actual Charlie Brown tree?”
They ordered a tree online for $11 and placed it on the Green. The two handmade ceramic figurines were made by Madolyn Sailor.
“My mother, who was a very talented ceramist, poured and painted them and made them for my children, more than 50 years ago,” Gold said.
Circling the News expressed concern that if the electrical was vandalized a year ago, what might happen to the figurines and the tree.
“What happens is what happens,” Gold said, noting that it is the season of hope and goodwill.