A Charlie Brown Christmas is a simple story starring the ever-unlucky and depressed Charlie Brown, who tries to do good by directing a school play depicting the Nativity. He tries to find a Christmas tree for the play, but he chooses a pitiful little twig that makes him the target of laughter and derision. The story also touches on and criticizes the commercialization of Christmas.
Schulz and Melendez waged and won some serious battles with network executives and sponsors over the content of the show. One notable example was the retention of Linus reciting the story of the birth of Christ from the Gospel of Luke, which has been hailed as one of the most riveting moments in the show. Another was the absence of a laugh track; Schulz wanted the audience to be able to enjoy the show at their own pace, without being cued. A third was the use of children's voices, instead of employing adult actors. The choice produced some production difficulties (notably with the child who did Sally's's voice, who was too young to read and needed to be cued line by line during the soundtrack recording), but was later hailed as contributing to the authentic, sincere feel of the special.
The TV special was a ratings hit and is considered a timeless holiday classic by millions of viewers. It has been repeated on TV numerous times over the years. It gave rise to a series of animated Peanuts TV specials, several full-length animated feature films, and a Saturday morning TV animated series.
The soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas, by jazz composer Vince Guaraldi, has become as well-known as the story itself, especially the piece entitled "Linus and Lucy," which has become seen as the signature muscial theme to Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang.