It came around in 1973. It was an instant classic, and became an annual tradition in millions of homes across America.
Our Home was one of those. I was just twenty-four years old. Way too old to like cartoons. But then, The Peanuts Gang has never really been a cartoon. More like a tiny slice of life.
It was the tenth prime-time animated TV special based on the popular comic strip Peanuts, by Charles M. Schultz.
Originally aired on CBS on November 20, 1973, it won an Emmy Award the following year. It has aired every year since on prime-time television, currently on ABC. It never seems to get old. But then, the gang never ages either.
If only I could have learned that trick.
It opens with Lucy once again holding the football for Charlie to kick. And once again promising to not pull it away. She couldn’t anyway, she explains, because football on Thanksgiving Day is a sacred tradition. It would be a violation of that sacredness to pull it away. Charlie takes it all in, of course–hook, line and sinker. He charges the ball, absolutely secure in the knowledge that at least this once, on this day, he is going to be able to kick that ball.
Of course, at the last instant, Lucy pulls it away, and Charlie ends up on his back once more.
It’s kind of nice to know that some things never change.
It goes on to a “wonderful” Thanksgiving dinner hosted by Charlie and the gang, and conducted by Snoopy. It’s on a Ping-Pong table, and set-up in the backyard, oddly reminiscent of that first celebration, so many centuries ago.
Different from the Pilgrim feast however, is the menu fare. Charlie’s consists of Buttered toast, pretzel sticks, popcorn, and jelly beans.
Peppermint Patty takes exception, much to the embarrassment of Charlie.
They all take off to grandma’s house, where of course, in typical Peanuts Gang style, everyone is fed, and everything turns out all right.
The credits roll at the end over an image of those two greatest friends of all time, Snoopy and Woodstock, devouring a large piece of pumpkin pie.
Set to the jazz music of Vince Guaraldi, he even contributes a very rare vocal track during the “Little Birdie” scene.
It’s thirty minutes (less on DVD, sans the commercials) guaranteed to warm your heart.
It certainly did at our house, way back in ’73. And it did it for many years more, a must-watch, in the several preceding days before the big celebration–It’s warmth adding to the glow of family, friends, and spiced desserts.
It continues to do the same today. After all, as I noted, the gang never ages.
And neither do family memories, friends, love, tradition and quality. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving still packs the emotion wallop and retains the same magnificent quality as it did on that first night, way back when, that autumn evening, forty-one years ago.
Give it a watch. I’m sure you will agree.