Although A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is a cartoon, it conveys powerful messages about the history, traditions, and true significance of Thanksgiving Day. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving subtly touches on the lack of knowledge many Americans actually have about the holiday as well as commentates on how holiday traditions can induce feelings of emptiness and confusion due to the seemingly pointless commercial takeover that they typically endure from year to year.
There is much we overlook about Thanksgiving and the meaning behind this historic national holiday. As Americans, it sure seems like we should do everything in our power to educate ourselves about why we practice certain holiday traditions. Read on to learn all the hidden messages about the meaning behind Thanksgiving that we can decipher merely by taking a closer look at A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.
The importance of the holiday has become distorted.
The movie begins with Charlie Brown and his sister Sally planning to attend their grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. Their plans change abruptly when Peppermint Patty invites herself and two other friends to have Thanksgiving dinner at Charlie’s house. Linus convinces Charlie to first have his friends over and later attend dinner with his grandmother, and the preparations begin shortly afterward.
After Linus says a prayer and the food is served, Patty chastises Charlie for the feast he and Snoopy have prepared, which includes buttered toast, pretzels, jelly beans, and popcorn. Instead of being grateful for Charlie’s hospitality and effort to provide a thoughtful meal for his friends, Patty becomes upset that she hasn’t been served a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
This occurrence points to the fact that people have a tendency to get caught up in the superficial markers of holidays and neglect the true meaning behind them.
The food and decorations aren’t actually important.
Embarrassed by the public humiliation induced by Peppermint Patty’s cruel remarks, Charlie Brown leaves the table, and Patty hashes out her rude words with her friend Marcie. Patty argues that Charlie should have served a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and has thus failed as a host. Marcie then rationalizes with Patty, explaining that Patty technically invited herself over and Charlie was polite enough to host anyway. Upon realizing her fault, Patty asks Marcie to apologize to Charlie on her behalf.
Here, it is further enforced that the commercial or “traditional” aspects of Thanksgiving are not what give the holiday its meaning. Patty and Marcie work together to arrive at the conclusion that Charlie Brown’s hospitality and willingness to welcome his friends with open arms on such short notice truly encompass the spirit of Thanksgiving—that is, friendship, humility, and selflessness.
Modern Thanksgiving traditions distract us from what really happened on the first Thanksgiving.
Do you know what went down at the first Thanksgiving dinner? If you don’t, you’re definitely not alone. The traditions we’ve developed and implemented year in and year out have little to do with the actual events that transpired at the Plymouth Plantation in 1621.
Fortunately, Linus cares enough about the history behind Thanksgiving to give us a brief account of that historic day. The Pilgrims held their first Thanksgiving feast in October 1621 to celebrate their first successful harvest on their new land. They invited the great Indian chief Massasoit and ninety brave Natives who contributed an abundance of food. Minister William Brewster then blessed the historic gathering with a prayer thanking God for their homes, food, and safety in the New World. He also thanked God for the opportunity to create this New World where freedom and justice would reign.
Linus’s history lesson reminds us that by celebrating Thanksgiving Day, we are honoring the gathering of Pilgrims and Natives, who that day decided to feast together as equals.
A tradition is pointless without knowing the story behind its meaning.
Much of the American history that was taught to us in school is infinitely more complicated, extensive, and controversial than it may seem. The same is true for Thanksgiving, which wasn’t taught with as much detail as it should have been. The history lesson that Linus offers in his prayer might not be a complete picture, but it nevertheless introduces us to historical figures Wampanoag Chief Massasoit, Governor William Bradford, and Captain Miles Standish.
Although it has never been confirmed whether or not turkey was eaten at the first Thanksgiving, that traditional dish has been associated with the holiday because Governor Bradford wrote about how the colonists had hunted wild turkeys during fall 1621. So, once Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, the North American bird became the national Thanksgiving main course for pretty much all Americans—except for the vegetarians and vegans, of course!
The bottom line here is that in order to appreciate the significance of a tradition, it’s imperative that we first know all the details about the event(s) that the tradition is honoring. Now we aren’t just eating turkey for no reason; rather, we’re recreating what may have been the very first Thanksgiving dinner all those years ago!
Thanksgiving is literally about giving thanks and being with loved ones.
One of the most obvious themes in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is the importance of family and friendship. As discussed above, there are many different factors that have come together to define what Thanksgiving means and what society believes to be important about the holiday. Ultimately, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves on the history of the holiday and honor that first gathering by following in their footsteps.
In the conclusion of the movie, our beloved Peanuts friends remind us that being together is more than enough to honor the spirit of Thanksgiving by gathering together at Charlie Brown’s grandmother’s house for dinner. The food, decorations, and other traditions that have evolved over the years are merely bonuses that have become ingrained into our modern holiday culture, and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving serves as a subtle yet effective reminder that we must diligently prevent those commercial aspects from overshadowing the true meaning of Thanksgiving.
What else did you learn from A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving? Comment your thoughts and experiences below!
Featured image source: https://www.welldonemarketing.com/2018/11/33-reasons-were-thankful/
Jamie graduated from Cal Poly Pomona in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She is an aspiring writer, professional editor/proofreader, and piano player. In her free time, Jamie enjoys reading classic literary works, composing music, and playing Xbox with her husband!