When I watched The Charlie Brown Christmas Special as a kid I was confused by Linus’s complaint about Christmas getting “too commercial”. I knew what commercials were—they were those interruptions to whatever I was watching that gave me a chance to get something to eat and maybe run to the bathroom too because we couldn’t pause live TV in those days and the special was only on once a year, and, as Christmas got closer, there seemed to be more and more commercials, so I thought maybe that’s what he meant.
What I did understand, though, was Charlie Brown picking that sad little Christmas tree—the one that really looked like a branch fell off a bigger tree and somebody just nailed a couple of pieces of wood to it. To me taking in a scrawny, unwanted tree and turning it into something beautiful spoke more profoundly about the spirit of the season than even Linus quoting Luke 2:8–14—which is a lovely moment, but the transformation of the tree doesn’t say what Christmas is about; it shows us a spirit of generosity and renewal that isn’t just limited to Christmas.
That’s why it annoys me so much that someone had to go and make a “real” version of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree and it now retails for about thirty bucks—and that’s the real meaning of “Christmas getting too commercial”, Charlie Brown.
This is my really roundabout way of getting to the tree in the middle of a roundabout that some really nice people decided to decorate. It may not be a small, scrawny tree and was probably only planted there as an organic way to draw attention to the concrete circle in the middle of the roundabout so cars don’t just drive over it. The decorations were a little worse for the weather when I stopped to take a picture, but it’s the fact that some people cared enough to share a little holiday spirit with the tree—and the rest of us—that matters.