My family has hosted Friendsgiving and this weekend we will attend one. While the concept of a Thanksgiving meal surrounded by your friends instead of family has built up interest over recent years, where did it come from? I think part of it comes from the expansion of shopping Black Friday into Thanksgiving night and now afternoon. As the build up of Christmas crass commercialism takes us away from those we want to spend time with most, one voice rings out. The same voice that told us what Christmas is all about. The same voice arguably hosted the first Friendsgiving in pop culture history. A little round headed boy by the name of Charles Brown.
In my childhood the Thanksgiving special was by far the weakest of the big three holiday cartoons. I would even put it behind Race for Your Life or the one where Snoopy visits the sick girl in the hospital. Yet the point of the cartoon is not to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, nor to keep watch for the Great Pumpkin. The point of the Thanksgiving cartoon is to showcase the changing American family. To reach an arm out to everyone who may not be part of our traditional family nor have anything traditional of their own. By showing acceptance and inclusion these friends and neighbors can become our extended family.
First, there is the ground breaking inclusion of Franklin. Charles Schulz introduced Franklin to the strip after a correspondence with a school teacher in 1968. Schulz received backlash from some newspapers because Franklin was shown attending school with white classmates, Peppermint Patty and Marcie. These three attended another school in the same area as Charlie Brown and friends. They all found common interests outside of school, enjoyed spending time with each other, and decided that despite any differences at home all that matters is friendship.
Yes, Franklin sits in the chair Snoopy just battled. He has a spoon instead of a fork. He’s the only one sitting on that side of the table. All of which looks wrong 46 years later. But 46 years ago he was there. There sitting at the table. Huge at the time. He later joined everyone at Chuck’s grandmother’s house for dinner.
Also joining everyone is Peppermint Patty. For years I perceived her as the villain of this piece. She invites herself over, forces Charlie Brown to feed her and her friends, then complains about it. She is ungrateful and rude. I thought she was raised better. And this year came the revelation.
Patty is introduced as the only child of a divorced father. She’s a latchkey kid. She attends the other school, and befriends kids that were also seen as different at the time – the black kid, the closet lesbian, and herself raised in a single parent household. Nothing but trouble there!
Peppermint isn’t rude, she isn’t imposing. During her first phone call to Chuck she says her Dad is out of town. She is explicitly all by herself on Thanksgiving while her friends get to eat food surrounded by family. She’s reaching out for help. Her actions become forgivable and Charlie Brown a noble host. He is well aware of how it feels to be alone. He experienced rejection in the already iconic Christmas and Halloween specials.
Charlie Brown introduces and teaches the true meaning of Friendsgiving. Our homes don’t have to be the same. Our school doesn’t have to be similar. We don’t need to live on the same side of town. All we need to do is be blessed to have met each other at some point in life and enjoy each other’s company.