This week was a chilly one--we have yet to turn on the heat, but we unpacked our fall coats and have been carrying the space heater with us from room to room at night. Yesterday I reorganized the closets to bring our cool-weather gear to the front and got out our few Halloween decorations, including the Peanuts Holiday Collection.
(What's perhaps one of the scariest things I could tell you today? Thanksgiving is in 36 days. Christmas in 65. Costco has already replaced their Halloween costume display with Rudolph yard decorations and artificial Christmas trees.)
This morning, I took a break with a cup of tea and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, to kickoff the holiday countdown. I bought the dvd set for the Christmas special, intending for it (along with Home Alone, Muppet Christmas Carol, and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer) to be part of a holiday tradition that I share with our someday-kids. As it turns out, The Great Pumpkin might be an equally important story to share with them, and not just because of Linus's sage advice from the first scene--
"Never jump into a pile of leaves with a wet sucker."
The story is really about religious tolerance and the difficulties that arise when you are part of a minority group. Linus is the only one who believes in the Great Pumpkin while all of his friends believe in Santa Claus. Every year, he misses out on trick-or-treating and a Halloween party while he waits, often alone, in a pumpkin patch, hoping that the Great Pumpkin will reveal himself. He is questioned, teased, and even bullied for adhering to his beliefs. At one point, Linus says that he's learned never to discuss three things with others: politics, religion, and the Great Pumpkin.
Truthfully, the "Something Scary" that is often on my mind is the challenge of raising our children in a family with two faiths. I believe it would be wrong to exclude one, and I also believe that to wait and let them decide when they are older would mean neglecting to enrich their lives with the many gifts that faith has to offer us all.
Linus and his friends are in conflict throughout the episode because he waits for the Great Pumpkin and they wait for Santa Claus. But beyond the name, the stories behind each are fundamentally similar. Both teach goodness and sincerity as virtues, both reward patience and faith. Both bestow blessings upon those who ask and believe.
I don't know the right answer to the Great Pumpkin question, and chances are high that we'll be doing our best to make up the rules as we go. But at the very least, we can start with the lessons in It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown in mind. Listen and respect those around you, even when they have different beliefs. Cultivate your pumpkin patch with sincerity instead of hypocrisy. Persevere in your faith, even when others question and criticize your path, even when you are feeling discouraged.
In the episode, Linus writes a note to the Great Pumpkin in anticipation of his arrival. This is my version of his letter:
Dear Great Pumpkin,
I am looking forward to your arrival in my children's lives. I hope that you will bring them lots of blessings and that you will help me teach them to be good people. They will probably be confused and discouraged sometimes because more people will know only about Santa Claus than about both of you. Well, let's face it... I will be confused and discouraged sometimes because I believe in Santa Claus and don't know much about you. But, having to be a household of two, perhaps we will try harder to understand what is really important. Perhaps we will better understand what it means to love and believe and understand. Others may tell us that we are making mistakes, and sometimes we might upset them, but I believe that you can make our lives better. You and Santa Claus together.
Thank you Linus.