In this file photo from Dec. 2020, Billy Beaumont, owner of Beaumont Farms, carries characters Snoopy and Woodstock while setting up the farm's annual holiday display with several volunteers at the corner of East Center Street and South Airline Road in Wallingford, Conn. That year'stheme was "A Charlie Brown Christmas. Credit: Dave Zajac / Record-Journal via AP

The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.

I was driving home earlier this week and listening to the Christmas music station, which had kicked over to one of those nationally-syndicated radio programs. They were talking about aluminum Christmas trees.

Now, my favorite Christmas song is the “Maine Christmas Song,” about the “state where the Christmas trees grow.” The idea of an aluminum tree always sounded somewhat silly to me.  According to the radio show, we had Charlie Brown to thank for that.

Hopefully everyone has had a chance to watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” this year. It isn’t the slickest animation or a masterpiece of voice acting. But it is timeless. (Spoilers ahead, but if you still haven’t seen this classic, that’s on you.)

Charlie Brown is down in the dumps at Christmas time. The would-be psychologist Lucy suggests he take on the directorship of the gang’s holiday play.  

As he prepares, he sees his dog Snoopy attempting to win a holiday contest and helps his younger sister Sally write a pretty substantial wishlist for Santa. If her list was too daunting, she suggests that cash would be an acceptable alternative.  

Rehearsal is a mess. Charlie Brown decides that a Christmas tree would help right the situation.  Lucy, playing the role of “Christmas queen,” suggests he get a “great big shiny aluminum” one.  

Charlie Brown heads to the lot and gets the only real tree available. It is a meager one, but real.  He receives scorn from the other children when he returns.

That is when young Linus saves the day. In response to a question about the meaning of Christmas, he stands center-stage and recites “the Annunciation” from the Gospel of Luke.

The children realize that the aluminum Christmas tree they wanted wasn’t so great after all. The little sapling that Charlie Brown had found could be made beautiful with a little work and effort.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” first aired in 1965. Aluminum Christmas trees effectively died out by 1967. Charlie Brown has been credited with their demise.  

That old cartoon was a morality tale about the hollowness of consumerism. The next year, it was followed by the television adaption of “How the Grinch stole Christmas,” attempting to impart a similar message.  

The Grinch has since been twice-adapted. Each new take on the tale has sought to reflect conditions in the real world around the time of release.

A new Charlie Brown might be in order. If the first edition managed to help kill off aluminum Christmas trees, the next one could take aim at some current challenges of consumerism.  Maybe it is “fast fashion” and the ills which come with nearly-disposable clothing.  

Or could the Peanuts gang take aim at social media and the destructive force it wreaks on both our culture, our politics, and our mental health?    

Charlie Brown might Zoom into Lucy’s telehealth psychology office. Little Sally may build an Amazon wishlist instead of a letter to Santa. Instead of a play, the kids might plan a TikTok routine.  

But even in a new adaptation, Linus’ poignant moment should remain. At his close – “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” – it brought back to everyone’s mind what Christmas is truly about.

It isn’t aluminum trees.  

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Avatar photo

Michael Cianchette, Opinion columnist

Michael Cianchette is a Navy reservist who served in Afghanistan. He is in-house counsel to a number of businesses in southern Maine and was a chief counsel to former Gov. Paul LePage.