Holiday Programming Is Soooo Important to Me
Holiday programming — Charlie Brown, the original Grinch, Rudolph… basically any Halloween or Christmas specials on television — I love ‘em all. It has always been pretty important for me to watch these much-loved movies and cartoons every single year throughout my life, but, up until recently, I’ve never actually paused to think about WHY it’s so important to me. Or more so, I’ve never had cause to stop and think about it. My aunt Celeste has something to do with my fondness for the holiday specials nowadays, but there’s more to it than just that. For me, these shows are pure comfort brain-food— and though they’re geared towards children, there’s no reason why us kids-at-heart can’t hold them near and dear as well… for the rest of our lives.
Growing up an only child, I would watch the holiday programs by myself while lounging around on my gymnastics mat, usually spread out on the living room floor in front of the TV. We didn’t have furniture in our living room for a long while, so my gymnastics mat was the couch. My mom would usually be cooking in the kitchen or moseying about the house in the background, and she’d check in with me every so often to ask if I was enjoying my show. It changed a bit during the years in which we lived with my aunt Celeste. She had many childlike qualities and loved watching the seasonal shows too, whether I was home or not. A few of the television specials were around when Celeste was an older kid, and being a creature of habit, watching them was something she’d continued as an adult.
We shared a home back in the early 1990s, and more recently again for the past eight years, so it had become mine and Celeste’s tradition to watch the TV specials together. It’s rare for me to come out of my bedroom in the evening, but when these familiar shows air on TV, my aunt and I always make it a point to set up a watch party in the living room together. We’d watch most of the good ones (Rudolph, Grinch, Frosty, etc.) but the main gems we absolutely could NOT miss were the Halloween and the Christmas time Charlie Brown cartoons, and then we’d usually stick around for the I Love Lucy Christmas special that follows directly after.
Now it’s October again, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to watch the beloved ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’ this year. My dear Celeste passed away this last February. I didn’t know if I could bring myself to sit and watch any of these always-awaited seasonal delights. Even though I would usually have no problem sitting all alone to take in the special episodes, this time would be different. Rather than spending time with my aunt, I’d be remembering the times with her instead. It’s sometimes more than I’d like to bear; I’m not someone who revels in thinking about something that I know will bring pain into my heart.
If I watched this year, I’d miss her even more so than I already do while picturing her sitting across the room, sunken down into her couch with her little baseball-patterned blanket thrown over to keep her legs warm. She’d drive me a lil’ bit nuts by talking through the entire show, but it was just part of the deal in hanging with my aunt.
She’d even send me Peanuts cartoon celebration emails for my birthday or whatever holiday was nearing throughout the year, as a side addition to our little tradition. I think about it now, and I’m so glad I never got around to clearing out my email folders. I still have all of them.
I sat in my recliner a few weeks ago, reading a Halloween-edition Peanuts book (I also collect holiday books with favored artwork), and it got me to thinking about ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin..,’ and how sad I would be if I missed out on it, for both myself and my aunt. There are some things I still can’t do, or watch, without her (like a primetime TV show we’d recently started watching together — so I’ll never know how it ends) because I miss her too much and it makes me sad.
I can’t let this be one of those things. Sure, it may seem like I’m making a big stink over a little holiday cartoon, but it’s much more than that.
It’s 39 and 65 years’ worth of memories in two peoples’ lives.
Some may say that two grown women watching these animated shows might be a bit ridiculous, and most people who watch have kids, so they have an excuse for watching. Well, I don’t have an excuse, nor do I want one. It just brings me happiness. Plain and simple.
While beginning to browse online as I do every year around this time looking for airing dates and times for my cherished television specials, I said “Oh, crap” aloud as I remembered something: Charlie Brown airs on the ‘ABC’ channel. The majority of other favored holiday specials also air on channels of the like: NBC, CBS, etc. Since I canceled the household cable earlier in the year and switched solely to streaming services in order to save some money, I don’t receive those regular channels anymore. This is where the big realization hit me: I need my Peanuts specials. They cannot be skipped over.
Panicked, I went straight to Amazon. I purchased the Peanuts holiday edition on Blu-ray and it arrived two days later. I have some relief because it’ll do the job, but it won’t be exactly the same — and here’s why:
For me, whether it was the years watching with my auntie or the ones spent watching alone, part of the annual tradition is actually watching it on the TV when the show is airing on a live broadcast.
I remember throughout my life, if I’d say something along the lines of “I gotta be home to watch ‘so-and-so’ tonight at 8,” my mom would respond with “Okay, but don’t you already own it on video?”
Yes, Mom, I do… but it’s not the same.
I prefer watching the holiday programs on the same night that everyone else is watching. Makes me feel all warm and cozy.
Knowing that other folks are watching the same animated, claymation, or musical holiday movie at the same time as me in their own living rooms across the country makes me feel like part of something special; as if others are watching along with me.
Somewhere, in another home — maybe down the street, or across town, or even a few states over — there’s someone who’s sprawled across their couch with their fuzzy-socked feet up on the armrest, and they’re watching too. There might be somebody in a big puffy recliner chair rocking back and forth (as I am), with the flames from their faux fireplace and remote-control candles flickering and creating ambience in the room, and they, too, are awaiting one of the much-loved specials to begin.
Maybe there’s a child somewhere sitting on the floor of a small above-garage condo loft, with their hard-working single mom on the other side of the wall making their dinner, and this child is getting to see the show for their very first time, beginning yet another personal lifetime of loving this seasonal experience.
In October, from the moment Lucy and Linus descend the familiar porch staircase and begin their short walk amongst the autumn foliage to the pumpkin patch to pick out the perfect plump gourd for carving, I like knowing other people are feeling the same joy as me.
In December, I get excited when the animated introduction snowflakes dance across the television screen before falling below onto the frozen pond, where the Peanuts gang is skating and swirling around along to the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s ‘Christmas Time Is Here.’
Even though I see it every single year, I can’t wait to see Hermey daydream about his dental ambitions as he paints Santa’s toys while singing about how he’s not a nitwit. I love it. I look forward to watching the stop-motion elves’ mouths moving back and forth from circles to flat lines. I love seeing the iceberg pieces carrying Yukon Cornelius and the rest of the bunch floating across the claymation whitewash as they try to escape the Bumble. Every year, I’m eager to watch these shows again. Can. Not. Wait.
It represents something. A lighter, more innocent time. Something happens to me after I get done watching my first holiday special of the year: I begin to get excited with anticipation for the next few upcoming months. When I see these familiar holiday shows, a piece of me awakens during the half-hour broadcast. Not only the memories of happy times that once were but also the inner comfort and calm that I sometimes forget is still in there. When you have lived a fast, rougher life than expected, you become jaded to many things. It takes a special circumstance to bring forward any kind of stimulated reaction. It doesn’t have to be something big or elaborate. There are still some small, simple happenings when the purest form of joy can still be released. For me, this is one of them.
These shows bring out a seasonal spirit in me. Most folks call it ‘Christmas spirit’. For me, it’s actually a ‘last-three-to-four-months-of-the-year spirit’. Same idea, it just stretches a little bit longer because I love the whole season, beginning in late September. I didn’t realize or quite understand the joy, love, and kindness embedded in the meaning until I got older. It definitely changed the way I look at the holidays. They mean something completely different to me now. Something I absolutely love.
In the short time slot every year that I get to spend watching these annual treasures, I’m truly happy. These Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas specials put me at ease, make me smile, and get me in a good mood for what’s yet to come.
(Edit: There has been a change since publishing this story. For the first time in 54 years, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” will no longer be airing on broadcast television. It will now be part of Apple TV+, streaming on demand for subscribers beginning October 19, and non-subscribers can watch it for free from October 30–November 1.)