Okay, I’ll admit it: saying this is my favorite Christmas album is a total front-runner move. It’s like saying,
“My favorite football team is the San Francisco 49ers: The Montana Years.” And I don’t care. A Charlie Brown Christmas is a fabulous slice of American musical – and television – history. It’s as much a tradition as presents under a tree, and every song makes me feel like I’m a 10-year-old sitting in front of my grandparents’ old console TV, even as I’m watching and listening with my own kids in front of a flatscreen.
Vince Guaraldi’s understated jazz is the perfect accompaniment to Charlie Brown’s search for the true meaning of Christmas in a world of filthy corporate lucre. And as you listen to this album, you know where each song occurs within the show, from “Für Elise” (“Beethoven Christmas music!”) to “Christmas Time is Here”, when Snoopy snags Linus’ security blanket in this teeth and whips a tranquil skating pond into full-on hockey violence. Even “Linus And Lucy”, the show’s theme and a brilliant piece of piano work by Guaraldi, gets airplay during Christmas time, and it’s not even a Christmas song.
But the best thing about A Charlie Brown Christmas, both the album and the show, is that their beauty is in their simplicity. They aren’t flashy and vacuous, like the forest of pink, metal Christmas trees that Charlie Brown and Linus stroll through. They’re more like the ragged little tree that Charlie Brown rescues, and is turned into a sparkling gem by the rest of the Peanuts gang because it just needs a little love. You can’t experience A Charlie Brown Christmas and not love it. You just can’t.