Welcome Great Pumpkin

Charlie Brown Pumpkin Patch by Kevin Dooley on Wikicommons.

Jeff Sullivan, circa 1987.

Halloween conjures images of horror movies, haunted houses, and inventive costumes. As a young adult it also makes me wistful for yester-year: trampling on leaves, using copious amount of red dye corn syrup to create flesh wounds, yelling “Trick-or-Treat!” and eating three pounds of chocolate in a night. But my fondest memory is watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” (ITGP) as a family as my brother and I counted our haul. ITGP was one of those important family traditions, like mass on Christmas, corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s, or watching Wrestlemania.

I hadn’t seen ITGP in nearly 10 years, so I felt a viewing was long overdue. My memory of the program was that it revealed American experience of Halloween–kids being kids. But my recent viewing showed it to be more complex than I anticipated.

For one thing, the Peanuts gang is not exactly very nice to each another (is any group of kids?). Charlie Brown is constantly the butt of every joke. He’s pitiful really: Lucy always pulls the football away from him, or then he’s realizing that his halloween bounty is nothing but rocks. The rest of the kids scream at each other for being “blockheads.” Is anyone else having flashbacks to high school?

Linus is the great prophet, believing that a Great Pumpkin will rise from the pumpkin patch to bring toys. Instead of participating in ‘Trick or Treat’ or the party, he spends the night waiting for the appearance of this mythical figure. By the show’s end, Linus has lost the respect of a love interest (Sally), missed out on all the fun, and spent the night shivering in the cold – and (spoiler alert!) he never sees the great pumpkin. Despite all this, Linus says that he is ready for next year. He won’t give up hope.

No matter your age, this can seem kind of hopeless. But I found myself looking at the situation through Linus’ eyes. He gives up all for his beliefs. When the rest of the world is partying, he stands convicted in the hope of something Greater than he can ever imagine. He relinquishes the immediate joy of candy for a once in a lifetime experience. In a simplistic way, this might be an analogy for faith. We too give up things for a greater imagining. We might be “blockheads,” but we are hopeful blockheads. Like Linus, we share the dream of something greater.

Editor’s Note: ITGP airs on Halloween night on ABC, at 8:00 p.m. eastern/7:00 p.m. central.

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