By Nickolas Cook
The Black Glove Magazine
Here we are: the 17th issue of The Black Glove, and we’re heading quickly towards the end of another year. Before we know it, here in the U.S., Thanksgiving will have come and gone, and then Christmas Day is just around the corner. It’ll be yet another year of media-driven screams on television to “BUY! BUY! BUY!”, whether you can afford it or not, something for which I have less and less patience with each passing year of my time here on this planet. I hate the over commercialization of holidays that SHOULD mean something to those of us lucky enough to have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. Sometimes I think we here tend to think that that is true for everyone, everywhere. We should be wise enough, eyes wide open enough, to know that just isn’t true. Not even here in our own country, let alone all those places we will never see for ourselves. If nothing else, we should be able to see the facts on the evening news, if we cared to know the truth. Right?
Now I don’t mean to get preachy about what we should prioritize in this country over that all important gift giving fix we’ve all come to worship, but this time of year always brings to mind a couple of things that have meant more to me over the years than the gift giving experience.
Back before there were a million channels (and nothing to watch on any of them), there were three major networks: CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System), NBC (National Broadcasting Company) and, of course, ABC (American Broadcasting Company). Each of them made it an annual tradition to show family oriented holiday specials. As a kid, seeing those shows hit the airwaves was one of the ways I marked time as the years went by during my childhood. It usually started to feel as if the end of the year was coming when CBS showed that Halloween classic, “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” (first aired on October 27th, 1966).
And then, of course, that other Charles Schultz holiday classic to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” (1973)
would come along a couple of weeks later to bring a great message about what a holiday that’s come to be synonymous for an all-you-can-eat mentality SHOULD really mean to American families who have come to see the holiday as a day of plenty for everyone, despite the very real fact that when it first aired in 1973, this country was in the midst of one of the worst economic depression it had seen in modern history. Unemployment rates and homlessness were at some of their highest in the history of this country. Looking back now, the media likes us to remember the 70s as that silly, comically glitzy Bee-Gees lovin’, Disco crazy, hedonistic time in American history, more to be embarrassed about than remembered for its many lessons in social hubris. But the truth is the 70s was one of the worst decades this country has ever seen.
Back then, I was a kid, and even then, in love, and yet filled with a great fear of, the one thing that meant much to me: horror, be it books or films. And just in case you’re wondering, it’s still something for which I feel that same strange emotional and intellectual dichotomy. I never have outgrown it; and hope I never do. But despite my childish innocence back then about the true nature of real world horrors, even I knew the world was in deep shit. Even if I didn’t quite understand all I saw on the evening news, I could still sense it in how the adults around me reacted to the things we saw together on the news. Sometimes Christmas seemed to be the only safe time during those years. I would get lost in that expectancy of Santa Claus and brightly lighted Christmas trees, and, of course, the Christmas morning ritual of ripping into gifts, seeing what the hirsute gent had dropped down our trailer's heating vent.
It was always a couple of weeks before that glorious day that the television stations would begin to show their usual Christmas specials. Some of them became tradition, such as “Frosty the Snowman” (1969)
and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1964).
While others were…erm…less than successful and thankfully went the way of the Dodo. I’m speaking, of course, of that travesty of Christmas specials, 1978’s “Star Wars Holiday Special”
But it was the “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (1965), which was already a tradition by the time I was born, that became an important family ritual in our house every year. My little brother and I always watched it with our parents. Despite the sometimes overly Christian message it attempts to impart to its audience, it is still a damned fine message that Christmas Day SHOULD be about love and peace among men…all men…no matter their skin color, creed or religion.
And, of course, that even sad Xmas trees need nothing but love to make them special.
Not to mention that the show has one of the most beautiful jazz piano soundtracks by the great Vince Guaraldi. I can’t hear it, even now, without thinking of those long gone days of my family sitting together, huddled against one of those seasonal Northeastern Florida ‘cold snaps’, eating popcorn and drinking homemade hot cocoa. You know, just being together.
I don’t watch much TV these days, but I when I do, around the holidays, I don’t see these shows hitting the airwaves with the same sort of fanfare or sense of tradition that they once held for American children. That being said, since I am officially 41 years old now, I’m old and wise enough to know that nothing stays the same, and that nothing is forever, including those great old 70s and 80s holiday specials. I just wish the messages of peace, love and understanding they once sent to the younger generation were still being told across the tube.
Although I’m not much of a fan, there’s a classic pop song by Elvis Costello and its lyrics still seem poignant, and without that irony-for-irony’s-sake, and somehow even more meaningful as I get older: (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?
So from all of us here at The Black Glove, to all of you and yours- no matter where your home may be- Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah or whatever salutation of cheer and well wishes your culture may use at this time of year…or any time of the year, for that matter. May all you Horrorheads see the darkness, but also enjoy the light. Most of all, don't forget that there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
The Black Glove Magazine
(NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Just about all of the old Peanuts holiday specials have been released on different DVD/Blu-ray packs now, so do yourself a favor and either discover them for the first time, or re-discover them with your loved ones or for yourself. I'm not a very religious person by nature, but most of them have simple human messages to impart about respect and love for your fellow man. Horrorheads especially should dig that message, for we delve into the darker side of human nature as a matter of course, and by choice.)