The classic children’s film “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” is a popular holiday special. For many families it’s a part of their Thanksgiving day movie line-up, a family tradition that’s been observed for many years. But, as is the case with many older films, some parents are concerned that the history lessons within it need an update for modern audiences.
The 1973 classic holiday movie features the Peanuts crew. The popular kid-favorite film is just as fun to watch as an adult too. Everything seems to make much more sense now that you understand that Charlie is clinically depressed and Patty is a feminist and that Woodstock eating turkey is every bit as weird as you thought. But, since it hasn’t been updated for the times, it can also serve as a teaching moment for children. Here’s how to watch “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” and how to talk about it with your child.
How to watch “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”
The film has been airing on TV since the 70’s but this year marks the first time since then that it won’t be on PBS or anywhere else. Since Apple TV bought the rights to all of the Peanuts specials, the only place you can catch this old favorite is on Apple TV+. If you have a subscription then you can catch the animated flick anytime you want!
But, for the sake of the holidays, Apple TV+ is being kind enough to make the film free for a limited time. From November 23 – November 27, “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” will be streaming on the platform, free to watch for everyone.
How to talk about “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”
If you’re wondering how to celebrate Thanksgiving while also acknowledging the history of the Thanksgiving holiday, well, this film provides an opportunity for an eye-opening discussion. Parents can use the film to teach kids about inclusion and why there are some gaps in the Peanuts’ historical knowledge.
While watching these programs, or at any other time during the holiday, we have a chance to correct some of the wrongs of previous generations by teaching our kids a fuller story about the English Puritan separatists and the Wampanoag people who welcomed them. For example, though we often call the event in 1621 the “first Thanksgiving,” native peoples had been holding harvest celebrations long before.
It’s also problematic in its treatment of Franklin, the cartoon’s sole black character, who for some reason is seated on one side of the table by himself. There’s also more to learn about Squanto, a.k.a. Tisquantum, the English-speaking man who first helped the English fish and plant food on the land where all his own tribe had recently perished from disease.
Films are a great way to open discussions for tough topics because they are a visual aid for children to understand and relate to. Just as books also help expand our perspective, so do movies. Depending on the age of your child, you can use this movie to talk about Indigenous history, Indigenous movements and even ways your family can be an ally.
And, it doesn’t have to stop there. You can also introduce children’s books that celebrate Indigenous people to your child’s story time rotation. Keep the conversation and the learning going past the Thanksgiving holiday and your family’s annual streaming of, “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.”
A version of this post was published November 7, 2019. It has been updated.