It’s never really the holiday season until A Charlie Brown Christmas airs. It’s my favorite holiday special and made me think that I might actually like jazz. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t look back on that fondly, but Skating is probably my favorite Christmas song of all time so I’m sure it isn’t some weird The Graduate/Lord of the Flies hybrid with both Christian proselytizing and granola-crunching, anti-consumerism hippiness all topped off with dated cultural references. That would be weird.
(By the way, this is the full-length, original version and not that hacked up one they show now because they have to get more commercials in than they did in 1965. So there’s extra dated goodness and possibly even more proselytizing.)
We open on snowblobs falling as the children are skating in a tight circle on a huge pond as a funeral dirge plays in the background. Oh, no. That’s a “Christmas” song called, unconvincingly, Christmastime Is Here. No wonder those kids hate each other so much. Spoiler?
As the other kids skate, Charlie Brown and Linus decide to go for a walk, at night, in the dead of winter, while it’s snowing. Don’t these kids have parents? Anyway, they walk through the unplowed streets and take up residence on a wall to mull the meaning of Christmas. Charlie Brown and his prematurely sagging eyes is feeling melancholy because of the holidays. This was in 1965 so they didn’t know what seasonal affective disorder was or that all you had to do to treat it was sit two feet from a klieg light. So instead, all Charlie Brown can do is talk about it to his friend Linus, who’s bored out of his mind by Charlie Brown’s whining that he’s sucking his thumb and catching a short nap.
Eventually, Charlie Brown’s droning about his depression wakes Linus and they’re back on their walk to nowhere as Charlie Brown continues to complain. I know we’re supposed to identify with the lonely boy, but he really is kind of a drag. Even Linus thinks so and tells him that only he could take a wonderful time like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Charlie Brown’s the only one who can hear the funereal music. Seriously, where’s ¿Dónde Está Santa Claus? when you need it? Then Linus plunges the dagger deeper into Charlie Brown, telling him that “Maybe Lucy’s right. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest.” Et tu, Linus?
So Charlie Brown and Linus finally make their way to the giant, frozen pond where the kids are still skating in the crowded clump, listening to that Morrissey-sounding Christmas song when Snoopy slides up and punks all the kids. First he forms a human chain and whips them around until he spies Linus and his blanket. He grabs onto the blanket and drags poor Linus around the ice before wrapping Charlie Brown up in it. Then, just for kicks, he drags them both around before flipping Charlie Brown into a snowbank and knocking him silly when he slams into a tree. Y’all. Snoopy kind of sucks.
Charlie Brown’s watching the snow still fall. Even though it’s the next day, in Peanutsville the snow never covers front doors or cars or ices over causing you to fall and bruise your tailbone, it just falls in giant blobs without ever landing. That Natalie-Merchant-sounding Christmas song is still playing as he surreptitiously goes out to his mailbox to see that no one has sent him a card. Despite not expecting a card, Charlie Brown is still just a little boy so it makes him sad and he actually says, “I know nobody likes me. Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?” Seriously, how did I not spend every Christmas vacation bawling my eyes out over how sad and lonely Charlie Brown is?
Still, he forges on when he sees Violet smiling as she’s reading a Christmas card. He decides he’s going to guilt her by “thanking” her for the card she sent him, but the kids in Peanutsville act like they live in Thunderdome and she just snots at him that she didn’t send him one and walks off. Charlie Brown keeps on walking, passing Pig Pen, a filthy little boy who probably reeks and yet HE has friends, and Snoopy, busy reading the paper and chomping on his stack of bones. Charlie Brown seems surprised by this, but isn’t Snoopy his dog? Cesar Millan would not approve of this role reversal, Charlie Brown.
FINALLY, the greatest Christmas song ever, Skating, kicks in and the children aren’t as morose. They’re trying to catch snowflakes on their tongues and I have so many fond memories of doing that. If you’ve never lived in a snowy place, I’m sorry. I can still vividly remember looking out my bedroom window after it snowed all night but before the plows cleared the streets. We lived on a canal and I could see through to the street on the other side. The whole neighborhood would be blanketed in white while little icicles formed on the branch outside my window and sparkled in the sunlight. That’s what Skating reminds me of.