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.


block2Is there really such a beast as “writer’s block”? Some writers talk about the fear of the empty page, i.e. getting started. That’s never been much of a problem for me. One cure for writer’s block is to avoid self-editing and vomit up anything and everything onto the page. That’s pretty much how I write anyway. This post is a case in point.

I was struggling with what to write today. I might have blown it off completely, but having a designated day for my weekly post is beyond helpful; it’s crucial. As Charlie Brown sings in his portion of the song “Book Report“…

I work best under pressure,
And there’ll be lots of pressure
If I wait till tomorrow
I should start writing now.

I am, in fact, more likely to get down to work if I have a deadline. Whether I work best under that kind of pressure, I’ll leave to others to judge. Tuesday is my deadline for this post, thus here we are.

Where and when one chooses to write can also have a significant bearing on the amount and quality of work produced. When I’m home, the distractions are many and varied and all come with a misleading urgency because they’re in my face. When that happens, I head for a neutral place, a local coffee shop or restaurant (both of the independent variety, of course) that has free wi-fi and doesn’t mind me hanging around nursing a Coke or a muffin for three hours at a time. (I don’t drink coffee. Go figure.)

Even there, I’m distracted. I carry the number one distraction with me wherever I write: my laptop and, by inference, the Internet. The entire (virtual) world begs me to explore countless pages of inane videos, meaningless sports scores, and boundless trivia.

Sometimes, because I crave natural light, I settle in the front window of a terrific little bakery/cafe. Watching cars drive by becomes my own little reality show. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • People text while driving… a lot.
  • If they aren’t texting, they’re generally talking on the phone, even if there is someone else in the car. However…
  • Somewhere around 90% of the cars, regardless of their size, have only one occupant. (Could there be a less efficient way to move people around?)
  • People like to stare at someone sitting in the window of a little bakery/cafe.

That’s a lot of distraction. Maybe I’m better off at home. I got this post off, didn’t I?