With today being Halloween, chances are you’ve already watched It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! – if not this year, then in one of the past 50+ years the Peanuts’ special has been on the air.
The plot, where Linus waits in vain all Halloween night for the Great Pumpkin to appear, is fairly memorable, but you may not recall one small but heartbreaking sequence.
Every year since the show first aired, kids felt so sorry for Charlie Brown they mailed candy to their television stations, as creator Charles Schulz’s daughter recalled in a 2018 interview.
Jill Schulz remembers that her father, who died in 2000 at age 77, got candy delivered to his own small studio in Sebastopol, Calif., too. “I remember him telling me and chuckling about it, that people were feeling bad for Charlie Brown and sending the candy,” Schulz recalled.
Children giving up their candy in a show of empathy is a great reminder that no matter which holidays you and your loved ones celebrate, the reward comes more from generosity, not treats.
It’s an important lesson to keep in mind with holiday season upon us.
Beginning with Halloween and barreling on through New Year’s Day, now is a tricky time when it comes to treats. Whether you’re a kid or grownup, the big challenge is that the word “treat” often gets equated with just sugar or junk food, and there’s already too much of that toxic stuff around.
You know how it goes. You buy one bag of Halloween candy for trick-or-treaters, tear it open late one night, then suddenly you’re at the store buying another bag of Halloween candy.
In November and December, you face even greater challenges, from that endless parade of baked goods in the break room at work to the neighborhood cookie swap to all that stress-eating when you’re preparing for a holiday gathering.
Of course, holidays should be full of treats and family traditions, whether you’re making Grandma’s tamales or your Uncle Mike’s famous eggnog or that mysterious fruitcake that everyone agrees could also double as a doorstop. Moderation when it comes to that stuff, right? They’re holidays, after all – a time for special things.
It’s also a special time to be more mindful not just of how you eat – and take care of your teeth – but of how you act towards others. The holidays provide opportunities for us to treat ourselves and others by reflecting on blessings, enjoying time together, or by sharing stories and sayings from loved ones no longer with us.
Increasingly, holidays also are an opportunity for families to show the same kind of empathy those children demonstrate year-after-year after watching a simple Peanuts special, sad for someone who’s been left out. The good news is that kind of spirit is getting easier to find with every holiday season.
You see it at Halloween, where teens go trick-or-treating – not for candy but to collect nonperishables for food pantries. You see it when little ones take their UNICEF boxes to collect spare change as they trick-or-treat (a tradition that inspired our own LBJ to declare Halloween as UNICEF Day in the United States way back when).
You see it, too, at Thanksgiving and throughout December, when families volunteer at their church or community soup kitchens or help out at the local animal shelter. You even see it on Facebook, where folks choose to celebrate holidays or birthdays with fundraising for causes dear to them.
When the focus shifts from treating yourself to treating others, not only are you less likely to overdo it when it comes to sugar and junk food, you’re also reducing your stress, building your health, and maybe even feeling a whole lot happier.
And that’s what the holidays are all about, after all. We think Charlie Brown would agree.