Story: In much of the world, you can easily see Snoopy on clothes, handbags, jewelry, and much more, but did you know that this family dog is part of a popular comic-strip family? You can see many of their adventures in cartoon form, but the most popular is probably the award-winning story of their Christmas.
Snoopy’s owner (Charlie Brown, age 8?) is depressed at Christmastime because of the commercialism of Christmas; that is, everything seems to be about money and gifts, but it all feels “empty” and meaningless to him. It is affecting everyone from his dog to his little sister. When commercialism threatens to take over his grade-school holiday play, Charlie cries out “Can’t anyone tell me what Christmas is all about?!” The answer is a refreshing part of Christmas for millions of Americans who watch this show annually. (Cartoon, comedy; Emmy-award winner; US TV classic from 1965; under 30 minutes)
Setting: Charlie Brown and his friends are in primary school. Many schools put on a Christmas play for parents every year, and these children are preparing for such a presentation.
People and proper nouns:
- Charlie Brown: Snoopy’s owner (see “note 1”)
- Sally: Charlie Brown’s little sister
- Linus: Charlie Brown’s best friend
- Lucy: Linus’ bossy big sister
- Snoopy: Charlie Brown’s dog (a beagle), though he acts almost like a person in these cartoons, and he has a great imagination!
Note 1: Charlie Brown (they always use his full name) has come to symbolize the child who is unpopular because of his looks, handicap or reputation for “bad luck.” Things don’t naturally “go right” for this character, but he never gives up. This optimism in the face of difficulty has given Charlie lots of fans for over a generation.
Note 2: Because of the popularity of this classic, a small, ugly tree at holiday time is sometimes called a “Charlie Brown Christmas tree.”
Vocabulary:(underlined words are vocabulary terms; *key terms)
- angels: a supernatural race of beings, created to serve God and act as His “messengers”
- blockhead: (negative, rare, and specifically related to Snoopy cartoons) a very stupid person; to call someone a blockhead is to say he is like Charlie Brown
- Christ: to many Jews and Christians, the “Christ” (Greek) or “Messiah” (Hebrew) is one sent from God to restore God’s rule on earth by first saving people from sin and then being their king.
- Christmas (圣诞节): December 25; a major international holiday, historically celebrating the birth of Jesus; whether celebrated as a religious or secular holiday, symbols include Christmas trees, colored lights, candles, and themes like peace, joy and generosity
- *commercial: relating to profit from business or trade (can also mean “for industrial use”)
- *commercialism: (negative) an overemphasis on making money instead of selling quality products or focusing on the deeper meaning of a holiday, birthday, etc.
- *depressed; depression: (抑郁症?) a medical condition involving too much worry, sadness and/or hopelessness (“Did you know that many people say they suffer from depression during the holidays?”)
- *to memorize: to put something into your memory (e.g., to learn a poem by heart). Note: Chinese English-learners often misuse this word by saying they memorize a person or historical event (which is not possible); you remember or honor people, and they can be memorialized (a passive verb) for their contribution or example. We commemorate events or contributions. We can also remember our loved ones at a memorial service after they have passed away. People sometimes build a memorial or monument to pay tribute to or honor (or memorialize) a person or event.
- *to mock: (negative) to imitate someone in a way that shows ridicule or contempt
- “rats!”: an informal term used to show that you are disappointed or annoyed (Charlie Brown says it a lot, so it is often associated with this character)
- *real estate: land or buildings, especially in terms of buying or selling such things (“People always buy me dumb toys for Christmas, but what I really want is real estate.”)
- security blanket: literally, a young child’s favorite blanket or toy, carried to provide a sense of safety; figuratively, whatever gives you a similar sense of protection or psychological security.
- to slug: to hit a person forcefully
- Studies show that a lot of people get depressed during or just after holidays like Christmas. Tell your partner why you think this happens, and what depressed people should do about it.
- According to Charlie Brown’s friend Linus, what is Christmas all about? Explain it to your partner.
- Charlie Brown refused to “just go along” (agree) with what everyone else thought was normal when he felt sure there was something better or more meaningful available. When it is good to “go along” with everyone around you, and when is it better to find or make your own way?
Sentences/dialogs from the movie:(you can find many more at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059026/quotes/?tab=qt&ref_=tt_trv_qu; http://www.imdb.com/ is a great source of movie information; blue indicates a key dialog or sentence)
- 1. Charlie Brown: I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel. I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed.
- Linus: Charlie Brown, you’re the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy’s right. Of all the ‘Charlie Browns’ in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest.
- 2. [Lucy pretends that she is a psychiatrist; Charlie Brown comes to her for counselling.]
- Lucy: Are you afraid of responsibility? If you are, then you have hypengyophobia.
- Charlie Brown: I don’t think that’s quite it.
- Lucy: How about cats? If you’re afraid of cats, you have ailurophasia.
- Charlie Brown: Well, sort of, but I’m not sure.
- Lucy: Are you afraid of staircases? If you are, then you have climacaphobia. Maybe you have thalassophobia. This is fear of the ocean, or gephyrobia, which is the fear of crossing bridges. Or maybe you have pantophobia. Do you think you have pantophobia?
- Charlie Brown: What’s pantophobia?
- Lucy: The fear of everything.
- Charlie Brown: THAT’S IT!
- 3. Lucy: Snoopy, you’ll have to be all the animals in our play. Can you be a sheep?
- Snoopy: Baaa!
- Lucy: How about a cow?
- Snoopy: Moo!
- Lucy: How about a penguin?
- [Snoopy waddles like a penguin]
- Lucy: Yes, he’s even a good penguin.
- [Snoopy then roars like a lion, acts like a boxer, and jumps on Lucy’s head in his “vulture” pose.]
- Lucy [throwing Snoopy off her head]: No, no, no!
- [Snoopy starts mocking Lucy]
- Lucy: Listen, all of you! You’ve got to take direction! You’ve got to have discipline! You’ve got to have respect for your director! [Then, noticing that Snoopy has been mocking her…] I oughta slug you!
- [Lucy swings to hit Snoopy, but Snoopy ducks, and then licks Lucy’s face]
- Lucy: Ugh! I’ve been kissed by a dog! I have dog germs! Get hot water! Get some disinfectant! Get some Iodine!
- Snoopy [sticks out his tongue]: Bleah!
- 4. Charlie Brown [after his classmates laugh at his “Charlie Brown Christmas tree”]: I guess you were right, Linus. I shouldn’t have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I really don’t know what Christmas is all about. [shouting in desperation] Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?
- Linus: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about. [He moves toward the center of the stage.] Lights, please. [a spotlight shines on Linus] “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not…” [Linus drops his security blanket on purpose.] “…for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And 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.'” [this is a quote from the Christmas story in the Bible, found in Luke 2:8-14 KJV]
- Linus [after picking up his blanket and walking to Charlie Brown]: That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
(For more information about Christmas, see these Christmas pages (underlined topics are on EFLsuccess.com or Krigline.com; others are on our older website): the traditional Christmas story, who is Santa (圣诞老人)?, candy canes, Christmas Perspectives (poem), and the pre-Christmas Advent season. Also look for Christmas wallpaper on our old website. You’ll also find movie study guides on this website (or our old site) for some great holiday films: A Snoopy/Charlie Brown Christmas, Last Holiday, White Christmas, The Grinch, Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life)