- Adaptation Displacement: Well, maybe not entirely, but mention the name "Charlie Brown" to many people today and it's a good bet that this special, rather than the strip itself, is the first thing they'll think of.
- And You Thought It Would Fail: Sums up the initial thoughts of the network before the special aired. The creators as well — when Charles Schulz, Lee Mendelson, and Bill Melendez saw the final cut for the first time, they thought this would be the last animation Peanuts would ever do. Boy were they wrong!
- Author's Saving Throw:
- While the show still is pretty close to how it originally aired save for the removal of the sponsor tags, there were a few minor touchups made in later airings for better consistency, such as the addition of sound effects where there were none before (such as Snoopy "whirling" the blanket and Lucy flying back from her booth from Charlie Brown's Suddenly SHOUTING!) and adding music to scenes that did not originally have them (such as when the kids are berating Charlie Brown for his choice of tree and when Lucy hands out the scripts). Several pieces of animation were also reworked as well, including a second dancing scene to make it a little less repetitive and Snoopy no longer singing along like a human at the end.
- After Apple TV+ obtained the rights to the Peanuts holiday specials in 2020 and caused a public uproar when It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown only aired through the service and left out non-subscribers and non-streamers, Apple quickly made a deal with PBS and PBS Kids to preserve the traditional over-the-air broadcast of this special.
- Awesome Music: Vince Guaraldi's soundtrack qualifies from beginning to end. Many people have credited it as their first exposure to jazz. "Linus and Lucy" in particular is very catchy. And became the iconic Peanuts tune, to the point that it's the official Theme Song for the franchise in all but name.
- Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: As iconic as Linus' bible recitation is — and for how much credit and attention it's given in-universe — it's also not clearly mentioned as the reason why any of the last few minutes of the special happen at all. It's not even the end of Charlie Brown's humiliation for such a climactic moment. The biggest shoutout it gets is the kids specifically singing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" over the end credits.
- Crosses the Line Twice: Charlie Brown accidentally killing the tree by putting a single decoration on it.
- First Installment Wins:
- This special still reigns as by far the most popular Peanuts special, to the point some aren't aware how many there are outside this and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (there are dozens).
- Even in Christmas Specials alone, Peanuts has done three more. None of them even come close in popularity to A Charlie Brown Christmas.
- Harsher in Hindsight: Lee Mendelson, who was instrumental in convincing Charles Schulz to do this special, hired Vince Guaraldi to do the music, and wrote the lyrics for "Christmas Time is Here", before going on to produce all the Peanuts specials, died on Christmas Day in 2019.
- Hilarious in Hindsight:
- Memetic Mutation: In the dance sequence, see that kid in the orange shirt with spiky hair in front of Linus? That's "5". Given that he wasn't very notable even in the comic strip note , most people know him just for that dance he's doing. You know the one. Taken mainstream when the cast of Scrubs made a Gag Dub of the special.
- Misaimed Marketing:
- In the original broadcast, there were ads for Coca-Cola in opening and closing credits in a show that protests the commercialization of Christmas. note
- Since Coca-Cola commissioned the show to begin with, the anti-commercialization theme could be considered Biting The Hand Fridge Brilliance.
- ...And now, you can decorate your entire house with Peanuts-themed Christmas merchandise, including an entire line of plastic figures recreating those deeply spiritual moments from this special, including a life-size version of the famous tree.
- Narm Charm:
- Some of the children providing the voices were too young to understand their lines, resulting in the classic awkward delivery that later became a staple of all Peanuts specials. Most notable with the little girl who played Sally; she couldn't read and had to be fed her lines one at a time.
- This could also be Fridge Brilliance: when Sally says "All I want is what I have coming to me, all I want is my fair share", she sounds very forced but that could very well be because she's parroting something she heard an adult say. You can also hear her stutter when she says the line.
- Similarly, the awful animation, a direct result of its abysmal budget and extremely compressed production schedule. The sponsors offered to have it spruced up after it became a hit, but Schulz turned them down, saying it was fine as-is (though that never stopped him from pointing out its flaws).
- Not So Crazy Anymore: The joke about Sally asking Santa for "tens and twenties" has dated rather poorly due to inflation. Granted, even in the new millennium that's still rather a lot of money to give to a child Sally's age, but you need to imagine that she's asking for hundreds to translate the sheer excess to the present day. note
- Older Than They Think:
- This isn't the first time the Peanuts characters were seen in animated form. The earliest, animated appearance of Charlie Brown and friends was in a series of commercials for Ford that began in 1959. Also in 1959, Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy and the other characters would appear on "The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show"/"The Ford Show" to introduce the host.
- This was neither Vince Guaraldi's first participation in a Peanuts filmed adaptation: his first work was for the previous and unsold documentary, A Boy Named Charlie Brown in 1963. In fact, his signature creation, "Linus and Lucy," was created for that film and since it was unused for public viewing, he simply played it for the Christmas special.
- Signature Scene:
- The kids dancing repetitively to "Christmas Is Coming".
- Linus's Bible monologue.
- Everyone singing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" at the very end.
- Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: The special drops the "consumerism bad" message hard and directly quote the bible to tell the true meaning of Christmas, all of which are themes still persistent today and this kind of narration make them easy to understand for everyone.
- Special Effect Failure: During the psychiatric booth scene, close-ups on Lucy reveal that she's phasing through the booth.
- They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: The soundtrack by Vince Guaraldi Trio. In 2006, the album was reissued with slightly extended cuts of "O Tannenbaum", "Christmas Time Is Here (instrumental)" and "Skating"; and both "Linus and Lucy" and "Christmas Is Coming" were replaced with slightly different alternate takes that were actually used in the animated special (though record label Concord did decide the inclusion of the lattermost was an actual mistake). Concord offered to replace the album at no cost, and reverted back to the original version of the album shortly thereafter.
- Tough Act to Follow: There have been, to date, three other Peanuts Christmas-themed TV specials after this one (It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales, and I Want a Dog For Christmas, Charlie Brown), but they all lurk in the shadow of this one since it has become so widely known and celebrated. It's telling that the second of those airs to fill up the remaining hour of current airings, yet most people wouldn't have a clue what you're talking about if you were to bring it up. It's Christmastime Again usually gets included with DVDs of the original.
- Values Dissonance:
- The overt biblical message might be a little uncomfortable or unwelcoming for those who celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday. CBS actually worried about this at the time. By 1965, Christmas was already largely secularized, especially on television, so one of their major complaints about the special was in fact Linus's Bible recitation; they feared a backlash from the less-religious.
- Getting an artificial tree for the holidays is presented as just another example of tacky commercialism at work. These days, eco-conscious people are more likely to use artificial trees because they'd rather not kill a defenseless tree every year, or support the operations that grow and harvest them en massenote , just so it can shed needles all over their living room for a couple of weeks. There's also the fact that real Christmas trees are highly flammable due to being dead. But naturally, of course, this is also influenced by the half-century-plus remove from how kitschy the artificial trees of the 1960s in question could be.
- Values Resonance:
- The shots at holiday commercialism and presentation of the Biblical True Meaning of Christmas have only become more relevant.
- Now that we know more about depression, and, in particular, how it can get worse around the holiday season, Charlie Brown's state of mind at the start of the special is more poignant than ever. Especially now that more people are aware that it's not so uncommon — a lot of people can probably relate to what Charlie Brown's going through.
- The Woobie: Charlie Brown as always, but also his tree. No wonder he chooses that one. A 2005 tribute album to the special and its music includes a new song, written by David Benoit and Lee Mendelson and sung by Vanessa Williams, called "Just Like Me". It's basically Charlie Brown's thoughts when he picks up the tree, except set to sad music. And honestly, the lyrics are ridiculously depressing.Hello little tree...
Kinda looks like me,
Standing all alone,
Sorta like it's been disowned...
YMMV / A Charlie Brown Christmas