Written by Joseph Carrick
Families across the United States and around the world have unique ways of celebrating the American holiday of Thanksgiving. Common traditions Americans follow in a typical Thanksgiving celebration include watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the carving of the turkey, or a viewing of Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving…but how did Charlie Brown become so prominent?
Charlie Brown began in a comic strip named Peanuts in 1950, although he originates as a brief mention in a comic dated in 1948. The first animated cartoon released in 1963 and the first Charlie Brown movie was produced in 1969 as A Boy Named Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving was released in 1973 and instantly became a classic in addition to the other holiday-themed releases such as It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and You’re in Love, Charlie Brown.
Why is Charlie Brown so beloved by America though? The comics were adored by children because many could relate with the child protagonist. Children could feel a connection to Charlie because of his underdog status, his clear and positive moral demeanor, and because he is simply a loveable character. His phrases such as “Good Grief!” entered into the vernacular seemingly overnight and Charlie’s pet Snoopy on his doghouse is a silhouette well known in American pop culture.
Peanuts already very popular in America when the Thanksgiving special came out, so perhaps it was inevitable that the film would garner a cult-like following each year. The tradition didn’t begin as a ritualistic endeavor, but rather a reflection of genuine interest in watching Charlie Brown in a holiday-themed episode.
The latest movie in the franchise, The Peanuts Movie, premiered in 2015 to raving reviews by both critics and audiences alike. It is clear that the film and its characters were treated with the highest respect. The film introduced a new generation to Peanuts, and thus the tradition of watching the Thanksgiving special will continue on for many more years to come.