As we enter the holiday season, our thoughts naturally turn to those traditional annual events that bring us such joy. I’m talking about TV specials, of course: Rudolph, Frosty, and the king of them all, A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Is anyone surprised that the man who dreamed up the Peanuts Gang hailed from the Midwest?
Charles M. Schulz grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, an only child who loved to draw. In his teens, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! published a drawing of Schulz’s dog, which he submitted with an article about its habit of eating sharp objects. His high school yearbook, on the other hand, famously rejected his work.
Schultz served in the army in World War II, and returned home in 1945 to start his cartooning career. In 1958, with the Peanuts comic strip firmly established, he moved to California with his wife and family.
Even after his move to California, Schultz’s Minnesota roots continued to influence his work. He was an avid fan of hockey and ice skating, an interest reflected in the opening scene of A Charlie Brown Christmas, which takes place on a frozen pond. In fact, Minnesota winters, with their heavy blankets of snow, provided the backdrop for many of his cartoons. He made use of other scenes from his childhood too, among them a baseball diamond much like one at Mattocks Park, in the St. Paul neighborhood where he grew up.
Of course, the world of the Peanuts gang is not unique to Minnesota. Part of Schulz’s genius was his choice of universal themes to create a world every reader could relate to.
I think that’s why A Charlie Brown Christmas is so enduring. It appeals to the kid in all of us.