As I approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I like to watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving for a reminder of what it means to be a good and welcoming host despite the horrible treatment often unleashed between family members throughout the year. If you haven’t see the movie, then I’m not sure if you’re actually human but I’ll include it at the end of this article. 🙂 It’s only about 25 minutes long–so do yourself a favor and watch it.
The movie opens with the classic dialogue between Lucy and Charlie Brown and why he should trust her with the football. The outcome is predictable and sets the tone for the way the rest of his friends manage to high-jack his holiday. It starts with Peppermint Patty inviting herself and some friends over to Charlie Brown’s house for Thanksgiving. He reluctantly agrees to host but laments, “I think I’m losing control of the whole world.” He is supposed to be at his Grandmother’s at 4:30 and he only knows how to make cold cereal and toast. Linus pitches in with positive guidance, “Have two dinners… That’s right, I’ve seen you make toast. You can’t butter it but maybe we can help you.” Snoopy is enlisted as the do everything dog/assistant. He gets the ping-pong table and a variety of chairs for everyone to sit at for the feast. He makes the feast–toast, pretzels, multi-colored cheese curls, popcorn, etc…Everyone heads over and takes their place at the table.
Linus begins by explaining the meaning of Thanksgiving. The feast is served by Snoopy wearing a chef’s hat. Peppermint Patty has a major meltdown about the lack of traditional Thanksgiving food. Charlie Brown leaves deflated. Then, Marcie calls Peppermint Patty out on her meltdown. “Were you invited, sir, or did you invite yourself?” Peppermint Patty realizes her mistake and after sort of apologizing–more of an implied apology– people make up and the day gets resolved with a happy ending.
The life lessons here are plentiful. The Thanksgiving holiday is often one where people are guilt-ed into hosting a dinner for people they don’t like or have been mistreated by because the holiday itself is advertised as a time for families and friends to come together and mend relationships. I get it. For Charlie Brown, no one eats lunch with him, sends or gives him a card on ANY holiday, reminds me him daily he’s a stupid blockhead, and yet he somehow ends up hosting the feast. For a guy who has no “friends”, he sure has a lot of people around to remind him of his shortcomings. For me, it’s a big holiday but if I’m not sharing meals with certain members of my family or friends on a regular basis already, it’s for a good reason. Maybe some people are jerks and now social pressure means I have to cook all day, open my home to their snide comments about what I’m doing or not doing with my life, and then clean up after them? I’d rather spend the time with people I like, who bring challenging and witty conversations, and an empty belly I can fill with all my gluten-free Thanksgiving themed food. And who like to play cut-throat board games…Some people are really good at integrating themselves into your life and then judging the way you live it.
Charlie Brown, being only five years old, cannot cook or do very much very well and has to rely on his friend Linus–who is younger than him– and his dog Snoopy for guidance and help. They do their best but are limited to what they can offer for a meal. Where did they get all of those toasters!!! Peppermint Patty melts down due to her unrealized expectations of what the feast should consist of. Instead of appreciating the act of getting together and sharing a meal, she focused on the food. For me, I’ve been blessed every year to be able to have the traditional Thanksgiving feast. Even the years I worked on Thanksgiving, I either had access to a great meal or my kids Rebecca and Otto brought it to my work for us to share together. Other people may not feel so blessed. They may not have family or friends to share a meal, they may have memories of passed loved ones which prevent them from participating, or they may be homeless or too poor to have a Thanksgiving meal.
Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving table is a ping-pong table from the garage with a bunch folding chairs, lawn chairs, and random chairs set around it. A tablecloth, folded napkins, and centerpiece and it’s good to go. Nowadays, the tablescape for holiday gatherings is almost more important and more work than the meal. A lot of pressure impressing people you may not see again until next Thanksgiving. Now for some people, decorating is a passion for them and I appreciate them very much because it’s a talent I do not share. I just clean off my dining room table and make room for everyone’s plates. Pretty informal around here. Some people may not even have a place to host or feel uncomfortable having people over to their home. Thank goodness for restaurants serving Thanksgiving dinner.
Ultimately, Charlie Brown does his best but it isn’t until his Grandmother invites all of his “friends” to join him at her house for Thanksgiving that he earns any points. I know these are little kids, little cartoon kids, adult egos trapped in little cartoon kid bodies; but real kids wouldn’t care about eating cheetos and toast for Thanksgiving. They wouldn’t care about sitting around a ping-pong table in the yard. Kids are about getting together, playing some games, and eating whatever is offered. They don’t care how much you’ve decorated, how you spent on the food or how fancy everything is. They just appreciate the fact they are together and sharing. I wish people could more like kids. Have an argument, apologize, and move on. When my kids were little, my daughter had a friend over. They had an argument about something and I heard one of them say, “I hate you.” Not two seconds later I heard, “Want to do a puzzle?” with the response, “Yeah!”
Many of us are like Peppermint Patty. We expect things from people who don’t even know what our expectations are and then we have meltdowns when it doesn’t go the way we think it should. Instead of coming clean right away and apologizing for our part in it, we harbor disappointment and resentment which end up distancing us from people we might actually like. There are so many people I would love to host for Thanksgiving—and I might someday—but for now, I kinda relate to Charlie Brown. And frankly, I don’t want to spend another year hosting another awkward gathering. My Thanksgiving this year will focus on the people who reciprocate the love and kindness I dish out as well as some people who may not have anywhere to go this year. Healthy boundaries with those in your circle who mistreat you or seem to have an endless supply of negativity is something to be thankful for. Just because they might be related to you, doesn’t give them an automatic invite to your house nor does it make you obligated to attend their gathering. Declining the invite or not inviting people should be done with grace of course–no need to add fuel to the fire. I’m sure the Peppermint Patty’s of the world will still find places to eat…
What did you think of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving? How does it make you feel about the holiday? How will you be spending it?