Along with pumpkin carving and trick-or-treating, there was one October ritual that was particularly dear to me: gathering around the TV set with my parents and brothers for the annual showing of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
In The Great Pumpkin, the ever-optimistic Linus Van Pelt heads to the local pumpkin patch to keep watch by night for the arrival of the Great Pumpkin, a mythical character who, according to Linus, rises from his pumpkin patch on Halloween night to bring toys to all the children who believe in him. Year after year, Linus waits for the Great Pumpkin and, year after year, he is disappointed. Nevertheless, despite the judgment of his friends – as Linus says, “There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin” – Linus keeps the faith and convinces the smitten Sally to join him in his vigil, only to be thwarted by Snoopy masquerading as a World War I flying ace.
What a blockhead.
In my head and in my heart, The Great Pumpkin is tied up with many of the best things about childhood: innocence, first crushes, conviction. Believing in something bigger than yourself simply because it feels so good to have something to believe in. The Great Pumpkin also conjures up a time before VCRs and DVRs and On Demand programming, when the annual viewing of the Peanuts specials, The Wizard of Oz, and The Sound of Music took on an almost sacred quality.
When my mom learned this summer that Big Brother had never seen the Peanuts TV specials, she gave him the DVDs for his birthday and now he’s a fan as well. Not surprisingly, the character with whom he identifies most is Linus: sensitive, kind, optimistic. Full of hope.
I’ll take it.
Have you ever seen It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown? What were your favorite holiday rituals as a kid?
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Image: The Halloween Spirit by JD Hancock via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.