[[quoteright:320:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/charlie_brown_christmas_screenshot_0671.jpg]]

->''"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"''

This is not a ChristmasSpecial. This is ''{{t|ropeCodifier}}he'' Christmas special.

Produced on the cheap-and-quick for Creator/{{CBS}} in [[UsefulNotes/TheDarkAgeOfAnimation 1965]][[labelnote:†]] (a careful viewer will notice that it's rife with [[OffModel animation errors]] due to its rushed production)[[/labelnote]], ''A Charlie Brown Christmas'' has nonetheless gone on to become one of the most iconic Christmas works of all time. It's also one of the most ''successful'' of all time, having been reliably on TV from its debut to the modern day. In fact, if you're from a Christmas-celebrating household, chances are you've already watched this more times than you can count and we don't have to tell you ''anything'' about the plot. But where's the fun in that?

The special is based around Charles Schulz's ''ComicStrip/{{Peanuts}}'' characters. As is his wont, Charlie Brown is having a Very ButtMonkey holiday season: He's received no Christmas cards, he doesn't feel happy, and he's been roped into helping [[{{Tsundere}} Lucy]] with her Christmas pageant. After he struggles with directing, she gives him a task: Find the perfect Christmas tree for her play. Preferably {{aluminum|ChristmasTrees}} and painted pink. Charlie Brown comes back with a twig of a sapling that's [[EpicFail too tiny to even support the weight of a single ornament]], and the kids' reaction causes him to wonder if anyone knows what Christmas is really all about.

Yes, that's the whole plot. And yes, [[LimitedAnimation the animation is cheesy]] to go with it.

And yet… there's a ''[[SugarWiki/HeartwarmingMoments reason]]'' this 26-minute cartoon has aired on network TV every December for 50+ years, originally on CBS and now on Creator/{{ABC}}. The special's perennial appeal is so strong that when it was edited for time to accommodate the greater number of commercials allowed in the modern era, fans raised such a stink that ABC agreed to broadcast it uncut in an hour-timeslot with a new segment, ''Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales'', being commissioned to fill the remaining time. [[note]] Of course, the fact that the network could then sell twice as many commercial spots with a consistently popular rerun was appealing as well.[[/note]]

This humble television special that no one had any faith in – CBS was fully-prepared to disown it and only aired it out of legal obligation[[labelnote:*]] (they quickly changed their tune when the ratings came in; ''literally half of America'' watched it; for reference, the only other things on American TV to earn that high an audience share are the Super Bowl [sometimes] and the final episode of ''Series/{{MASH}}'')[[/labelnote]] – ended up turning ''Peanuts'' into a multimedia juggernaut, with several dozen more specials over the next four decades, a short-lived SaturdayMorningCartoon, five theatrical films, and a Broadway musical. In 2015, ABC aired a two-hour special called ''It's Your 50th Christmas, Charlie Brown'', which focuses on the enduring popularity of ''A Charlie Brown Christmas''.

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!!'''''A Charlie Brown Christmas'' contains examples of:'''
* AnAesop: As well as the TrueMeaningOfChristmas below; Don't let the commercialization of Christmas discourage you from why you celebrate it.
* AluminumChristmasTrees: The TropeNamer, of sorts (the other half would be the actual aluminum Christmas trees themselves). The special's lampooning of them is partly credited with their disappearance by the 1970's. Other than their mention here, they've been so utterly forgotten that most viewers born after 1960 think it's something made up for the show. [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminum_Christmas_tree But they were real]].
-->'''Linus:''' ''(awed)'' It boggles the mind.
* AssInALionSkin: Snoopy is tapped to perform the parts of all the animals in the Christmas play, including a sheep, a cow, and a [[EverythingsBetterWithPenguins penguin]]. (He gratuitously adds a vulture and, yes, a lion.)
* AsTheGoodBookSays: Linus' short sermon is a direct quote from Luke 2:8-14.
* BeautifulAllAlong: The tree.
* BootstrappedTheme: The song from [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0G8XH4WDxP4 the dance sequence]], titled [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgoPl35n_AY "Linus and Lucy"]], is often considered the ''Peanuts'' theme song.
* ButtMonkey: The special starts off with Charlie Brown completely ignored by his friends in terms of Christmas joy.
** Also, Shermy. You know, the guy who gets one line... and it's to complain that every Christmas he always plays the shepherd.
* ChekhovsGun: Snoopy's Christmas lights (which he puts on his ''dog house'' for the big neighborhood Christmas light display contest... which he wins). Said lights, a symbol of "Commercialization", ironically become the trimmings that give Charlie Brown's tree new life!
* ChristmasCarolers: Ends with the gang outside standing around a Christmas tree and singing carols together.
* CrowdSong: The impromptu "ooooooooo" version of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" after the tree's transformation, followed by the real thing when Charlie Brown shows up.
* DemotedToExtra: Shermy, a major character in the early days of the newspaper strip, has ''one line'' in the whole special, reflecting the increasing rarity of Schulz's use of him (he made his last appearance in the strip four years later).
* DepartmentOfRedundancyDepartment: "Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest."
* DespairEventHorizon: "I ''killed'' it."
* DownerBeginning: For once, Charlie gets the worst of the story out of the way early -- he goes to the skating pond feeling depressed and has a painful and humiliating accident being thrown against a tree by Snoopy and buried in snow when the amount on the tree's branches falls on him.
* DramaticSpotlight: Linus asks for one of these for his TrueMeaningOfChristmas speech (seen in the page image for the latter.)
* EnemyToAllLivingThings: Charlie Brown thinks he's this.
-->'''Charlie Brown''': "I've killed it. AUGHH! Everything I touch gets ruined!"
* EverybodyDoTheEndlessLoop: The "dancing" scene, which is also one of the most-parodied and iconic sequences from the special.
* {{Filler}}: ABC's current televising strategy is to combine this with ''Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales'' to fill an hour.
* FullNameBasis: Briefly subverted. When Lucy tells Charlie Brown that Christmas is really a racket run by an Eastern syndicate, she starts by saying, "Look, Charlie..." This is the only time she ever calls him by just his first name.
%%* GagDub: A 10-minute version featuring the cast of ''Series/{{Scrubs}}'', which can be found on [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20Of_mna-Rs YouTube]]. It features J.D. as Charlie Brown and Dr. Cox as Linus.
%%** Another one called "[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajg8QrSsr_A A Charlie Brown Kwanzaa]]", featuring generous helpings of JiveTurkey, RefugeInVulgarity and CrossesTheLineTwice.
* HearMeTheMoney: Lucy loves to hear that old money plink, that beautiful sound of cold hard cash, that beautiful ''beautiful'' sound…
* HeroicBSOD: "...I ''killed'' it."
* HotAndCold: Even Lucy gets some sweetness, and it's not just toward Schroeder...
* KickedUpstairs: It's implied Charlie Brown is the director of the Christmas play because no one trusts him in any meaningful role.
* LimitedAnimation: Well, what would you ''expect'' from a Dark Age cartoon with a six-month production schedule?
* LongRunners: It's only one 26-minute special, but considering how many consecutive years it's been shown on TV? It ''definitely'' counts.
* LongSpeechTeaTime: Charlie Brown's long speech to his actors finishes up by revealing that everyone's gone off to dance on the stage again.
-->'''Charlie Brown''': Am I right?... I said, ''AM I RIGHT??!''
** Amusingly enough, the music picks up right after he explains his signal for "Pick up the tempo." The key to comedy is timing.
* LyricalDissonance: "Christmas time is here... Happiness and cheer..." And yet the song sounds so sad.
** Well, more wistful than sad -- kind of like "White Christmas".
** Possibly it's meant to symbolize Charlie Brown's inner depression and how the Christmas spirit seems shallow to him.
* TheMakeover: To a tree instead of a human, though. Oddly, adding all those ornaments onto it somehow makes it grow extra branches and foliage.
* MoodWhiplash: The scene goes from Charlie Brown being mocked, berated, and jeered, and without even pausing to take a breath dives into Linus reciting a verse from Literature/TheBible that shames everyone there into realizing the TrueMeaningOfChristmas.
** The song being played during the Ice Skating Sequence, "Christmas Time Is Here". The lyrics suggest something cheery while the overall tone in the singing and piano playing is very depressing.
* MythologyGag: Snoopy ''really'' loves to pretend he's a vulture.
* NeverTrustATrailer: [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPUIJj5_qRU This promo]] incorporates a scene from the untelevised documentary ''A Boy Named Charlie Brown'' (not to be confused with the 1969 feature film of the same name) without identifying it as such.
* NewerThanTheyThink: Charlie Brown is obviously suffering from holiday depression (as did Schulz himself), but it wasn't diagnosed as something clinically until much later. [[invoked]]
* OffModel: This special was produced cheaply and quickly; the animation suffered as a result. Look for things like, say, one kid in the background suddenly popping in front of Linus's head for one frame, or the arrangement of words on Lucy's booth changing ''twice'' in the course of a minute.
** Schulz himself often pointed out how the Pathetic Christmas Tree inexplicably grew a few branches over the course of its time onscreen.
* OnlyFriend: Linus is the only one who doesn't laugh at Charlie Brown.
* OverTheTopChristmasDecorations: Snoopy gives his doghouse the decorative overkill treatment and wins 1st prize in the local newspaper's Christmas decoration contest.
* ThePowerOfLove: What makes the tree beautiful at the end, if what Linus says is true.
* ProductDisplacement:
** Originally, after the title card appeared, Snoopy tossed Linus at a billboard for Coca-Cola (the special's original sponsor). Modern broadcasts cut to commercial after the title card instead, while home video releases fade to black. However, a [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4eDW1DZofU black-and-white print of the sequence with the Coke billboard, derived from the original color master]], was discovered and posted to Website/YouTube in 2012. And shortly after that, [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zo1PstQ1Yg8 the original color version derived from a promotional tape reel]] was also found and uploaded.
** The original three airings also contained a sponsor tag at the end for Coca-Cola, which explains why later airings have the chorus of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" over the closing credits fading out early. An [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Th1GdWQiYPM alternate version]] has also been discovered.
* ReasonableAuthorityFigure: Charlie Brown, as director of the Christmas play, tries to be this but it's quickly made apparent that he has absolutely no control over anything.
* SarcasmBlind / InsultBackfire:
-->'''Charlie Brown:''' Thanks for the Christmas card you sent me, Violet.\\
'''Violet:''' I didn't send you a Christmas card, Charlie Brown.\\
'''Charlie Brown:''' Don't you know sarcasm when you hear it?
* SecurityBlanket: Obviously, Linus, who is never without his, except when reciting the Bible verse. He drops it when he gets to the part when the angel tells the shepherds to ''not'' be afraid.
* TheSpeechless: Snoopy may be a dog who can't talk, but he seems to be treated as good as human by the rest of the cast. Especially here.
* TheSyndicate: Mentioned by Lucy. This could also have been a reference to United Feature Syndicate, the group that distributed ''Peanuts'' to newspapers (and owned its copyright until recently).
--> '''Lucy:''' We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It's run by a big eastern syndicate, you know.
* TakeThatKiss: After Lucy turns around and catches Snoopy imitating her:
--> '''Lucy:''' I oughta slug you. (''Slurp'') UGH! I've been kissed by a dog! I have dog germs! Get some hot water, get some disinfectant, get some iodine!\\
'''Snoopy:''' Bleah...
* TrueMeaningOfChristmas: Charlie Brown longs to find this, and Linus ultimately delivers it courtesy of [[AsTheGoodBookSays the Gospel of Luke]].
* [[WhenSheSmiles When He Smiles]]: After all he went through in the both special and his life in general, seeing Charlie Brown smiling is so special to see him happy for a change.
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->''"...That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."''