A Charlie Brown Christmas has been playing on repeat for the last few weeks, as it does every Christmas season. The moral of Charlie Brown’s story is that Christmas is too commercialized, and it leaves Charlie feeling empty and sad. This is an age-old predicament around the holidays. A Charlie Brown Christmas was released almost fifty years ago back in 1965, and yet the same problem exists today. Everyone still talks about the commercialism that surrounds Christmas; but when and why did it happen?
The commercialism of Christmas can be traced back to the early 1940’s, when Christmas celebrations were limited to upper-class families. Kids from poor families might find an orange and some nuts in their stockings, while children from wealthy families would receive lavish gifts under the tree. Thus began the have/have not Christmas divide in the United States. Miracle on 34th Street, which was released in 1947, was one of the first motion pictures that dealt with the commercialism of Christmas. This movie featured drunken Santa’s, greedy kids and giant retail chains cashing in on the Christmas Holiday.
The commercialization of Christmas worsened throughout the 1950s, as the focus on Christmas became less and less about a Christian celebration, and more about gift giving and taking children to see Santa at the local Macy’s. In the 1960’s the traditional Christmas tree was traded in favor of stylish tin trees of the era. Although the trees were neat, it signaled a break in tradition and ultimately a new and stylized Christmas.
In later years such as the 90s and 2000s the day after Thanksgiving’s “Black Friday” became a big deal, with early Christmas shoppers camping out in front of Best Buy stores and fighting each other in Wal-mart’s around the country. People go shopping in the middle of the night, stay in ridiculous lines and sometimes even get trampled, all in the pursuit of a good sale.
At the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas, young Sally quotes “All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.”
Who knew that little Sally’s sentiment would last through the decades.