A Charlie Brown Christmas & Fantagraphics' New Charlie Brown's Christmas Stocking are Peanuts Christmas Classics

"Do you have pantaphobia?''
CBS felt a bit like Snoopy when the network caught wind of the special's religious content.

"Schulz wanted to do a Christmas story directly about what Christmas is all about," Gertler says. "It's not just happiness, generic music, and things like that. Remember, back in that day, there were only a few channels. It was more important to put on something that didn't turn people away. They were probably going to watch your show unless you gave them a reason not to. It's very different than today's market, where there are so many choices at any given moment, with 'YouTubes' and 'Netflix-es.' There was a certain amount of reticence in 1960s TV, [with a prevailing attitude of] 'Well, we can't afford to offend anybody.'"

The special's sponsor, Coca-Cola, sided with Schulz, and Linus' reading of the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke, King James Version, aired in its entirety.

"I think in retrospect it was probably a good decision," Gertler laughs. "It's been running 47 years now. It's about to be the 48th annual showing. It's hard to second-guess at this point."

It's fitting that Peanuts strips in the '70s would poke fun at those being "loudly, overly theological."

"There were times where Schulz was willing to push back against the pushing of theology," Gertler laughs, describing a strip which features Snoopy writing a book titled, Have You Ever Considered You Could be Wrong? and one where the kids attend a religious summer camp where they are warned about the imminent end of the world, only the camp is also raising funds for a new building, to be built the next year.

Theological concerns aside, religious content of A Charlie Brown Christmas speaks to a search for greater authenticity in the holiday.

"You see that question of 'authenticity' in the Christmas tree," Gertler says. "Lucy wants a fake aluminum tree, which was actually a thing then..."

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