How Charles Saved Christmas

There’s a school of thought that credits Charles Dickens, more than any other, with creating the Western version of Christmas as we know it today. (Read more about it in this post from seven years past.) There’s truth to that, but another Charles has done an even greater service to the season. And he used yet another Charles (actually, a Charlie) to do it.

Imagine the 4th of July where no one mentions the Declaration of Independence, the revolution, or even the USA. Or Memorial Day without a reference to veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Arbor Day without trees or Thanksgiving with no gratitude. Even worse, your birthday without mentioning you!

Unthinkable, right? Think again.

No matter your religious affiliation, it’s hard to argue that removing the birth of Christ from the celebration of Christmas isn’t blatantly unfair and patently illogical. It’s also impossible to deny the truth of it.

I went Christmas shopping yesterday. In one store, there was a display of (supposedly) Christmas ornaments. Among their number were included:

  • A Dallas Cowboys football player
  • Grogu, the baby Yoda from The Mandalorian
  • A nutcracker wielding a candy cane as a weapon
  • the Stay Puft Marshmallow man
  • Harry Potter memorabilia
  • Spiderman
  • vehicles of all shapes and sizes and colors
  • Mario and Luigi
  • a lamp made from a shapely leg in fishnet stockings

…and a whole host of other cultural icons, many of which didn’t exist ten years ago and will be forgotten ten years from now.

I don’t question the cultural appropriateness or whimsy or profitability of any of those. They have their place. However, am I a Scrooge or, worse, a right-wing ideologue to ask why there wasn’t one single reference to the events that got this whole snowball rolling in the first place? To put things in perspective, I searched the online list of the 1,126 “Christmas” ornaments sold by Hallmark, purveyor of those insipid Christmas “romance” films, that I confess to watching. It turned up exactly four that had an explicit reference to the Nativity. Sure, there were snowman angels and Precious Moments cuties but only four that referenced Jesus, and then only barely.

That brings me to Charles and Charlie. For over 70 years, “Peanuts”, the comic strip and characters created by Charles (Schulz), has been a staple of American culture and Charlie (Brown) has been its greatest symbol. Back in 1965, those two put a stake in the snow that has since been the sole standard bearer for the cause of “keeping Christ in Christmas.” They didn’t do it by whacking us over the head with a Bible or a Yule log, nor by scolding or judging the culture. They did it with a little boy clutching a security blanket and telling a simple story that has changed the world more than any other event in human history.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

I shudder to think what Christmas in America would be like without Charles and Charlie.

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