Meanwhile, back at the auditorium, Lucy was leaning on Schroeder's toy piano, listening to Schroeder declare, "This is the music I've selected for the Christmas play."

He began playing the famous song "Für Elise."

"What kind of Christmas music is that?" Lucy asked skeptically.

"Beethoven Christmas music," Schroeder replied, not taking his eyes off of the keyboard.

"What has Beethoven got to do with Christmas? Everyone talks about how great Beethoven was. Beethoven wasn't so great."

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN BEETHOVEN WASN'T SO GREAT?" Schroeder yelled angrily, and the music suddenly ceased.

Lucy looked at him. "He never got his picture on bubble gum cards, did he? Have you ever seen his picture on a bubble gum card? Huh? How can you say someone is great who's never had his picture on bubble gum cards?"

"Good grief," Schroeder said to himself, exasperated. He resumed playing. Snoopy, meanwhile, had been strolling over to the piano and now began dancing to the music happily. Gradually, Schroeder and Lucy both noticed and began glaring at poor Snoopy, who was unaware that Schroeder had stopped playing. His happiness soon died down as he discovered this, and he stopped dancing, blushed and slowly slinked off. Schroeder started playing again.

"Say, by the way," Lucy asked him, "can you play 'Jingle Bells?' "

Schroeder began playing with a classical tune.

"No, no. I mean 'Jingle Bells.' You know, deck them halls and all that stuff?"

Schroeder began playing with an organ sound.

"No, no. You don't get it at all. I mean 'Jingle Bells.' You know, Santa Claus and ho ho ho and mistletoe and — " here she smiled and leaned toward Schroeder, " — presents to pretty girls?"

Schroeder glared at her. He began tapping out the melody, on a very high scale, with one finger.

"THAT'S IT!" Lucy shouted. Schroeder reeled.

"We're back," a voice called, and Charlie Brown and Linus walked in with the tree. Charlie Brown set it on top of Schroeder's piano, and several more needles fell off.

The kids gathered around in astonishment at the sad little tree. They all began talking at once.

"Boy, are you stupid, Charlie Brown."

"What kind of a tree is that?"

"You were supposed to get a good tree. Can't you tell a good tree from a poor tree?"

"I told you he'd goof it up. He's not the kind you can depend on to do anything right."

"You're hopeless, Charlie Brown."

"Completely hopeless."

"RATS," Charlie Brown shouted in agony.

"You've been dumb before, Charlie Brown," Lucy cried, "but this time you really did it."

There was a few moments of utter silence. Then all the kids began laughing at once. "What a tree! Ha ha ha ha ha!" They slowly walked away, still laughing, all except for Snoopy, who stayed for just a little while longer to laugh in poor Charlie Brown's face. But he, too, eventually left, leaving Linus and Charlie Brown all alone.

"I guess you were right, Linus," Charlie Brown sighed. "I shouldn't have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I really don't know what Christmas is all about." It became clear to Linus that his friend was trying to hold back tears.


"Sure, Charlie Brown," Linus replied. "I can tell you what Christmas is all about."

He walked to the center of the auditorium stage so that his message would be received by the rest of the kids as well. There, he quoted from the Bible:

" 'And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them. The glory of the Lord shone round about them. And they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, "Fear not. For behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, goodwill toward men." ' "

With that, Linus picked up his blanket, approached Charlie Brown, and said simply, "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Charlie Brown got a thoughtful look on his face. He picked up the little, scraggly tree and walked out of the auditorium, past the group of quiet kids. Outside, he looked out at the stars where he pondered Linus' words:

" ' "...For behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you." ' "

"Linus is right," Charlie Brown said aloud. "I won't let all of this commercialism ruin my Christmas. I'll take this little tree home, and decorate it, and I'll show them it really will work in our play."

And with that, he ran home — and found, in his backyard, that Snoopy's doghouse had been decorated rather crazily. He looked at the little ribbon which had been placed upon it.

"FIRST PRIZE? Oh well, this commercial dog is not going to ruin my Christmas."

He set the tree down and happily picked off an ornament from the doghouse, which he hung on the scraggly tree. It teetered for a second, then slumped over from the very weight of the bulb.

Charlie Brown looked at it in horror.

"I've killed it," he said to himself. Then, with a cry of despair, "OH! Everything I TOUCH gets ruined!"

He sadly walked away. Unbeknownst to him, the rest of the kids had left the auditorium and had been following and watching him. They now walked toward Snoopy's doghouse, next to whcih the tiny, scraggly tree now resided, and stood before it, looking at the tree thoughtfully.

"I never thought it was such a bad little tree," Linus said. He wrapped his blanket around the base of the tree, which straightened it up again. "It's not bad at all, really; maybe it just needs a little love."

The rest of group, all getting the same idea at once, started removing decorations from Snoopy's doghouse and lovingly began placing them on the tree. When they were done, it was hardly recognizable. It looked lush, beautiful, and not at all sad.

"Charlie Brown is a blockhead, but he did get a nice tree," Lucy said thoughtfully. The kids proudly stood by their creation and hummed "O Little Town of Bethlehem."

Charlie Brown, who was walking toward his house in despair, turned around and saw the kids gathered around the tree. "What's going on here?" he asked, going to join them.

But when Charlie Brown saw the tree, he couldn't believe his eyes. He gazed at it, from top to bottom. He closed his eyes and opened them again to make sure they were working properly. He was stunned at the beauty of what had started out as a lonesome, gloomy Christmas tree. And Charlie Brown smiled, a huge, joyful smile of pure happiness.

"MERRY CHRISTMAS, CHARLIE BROWN!" the kids all joyfully shouted in unison. Then they began to sing, with a merry Charlie Brown joining them:

Hark the herald angels sing,

Glory to the newborn king.

Peace on Earth and mercy mild,

God and sinner reconciled.

Joyful, all ye nations rise,

Join the triumph of the skies!

With angelic host proclaim:

Christ is born in Bethlehem!

Hark, the Herald angels sing,

Glory to the newborn king.

The End