First aired in 1965, this special was the first of the Peanuts specials and certainly set the bar pretty high for the franchise. The show has won an Emmy as well as a Peabody Award.
But the show almost never got aired!
One of the big reasons is for me my favorite part of the episode. Apparently ABC executives didn't like Linus' reading from the Gospel Of Luke. They felt viewers didn't want to have religion in their Christmas special. But creator Charles Schultz and director Bill Melendez fought to keep it in. Schultz said of this "If we don't tell the true meaning of Christmas, who will?"
Thank you Mr. Schultz...
"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, and 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 o great joy, which shall be to all my 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, and good will toward men."
"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." - Linus Van Pelt