EAST BERLIN, Pa. (WHTM) – Half a century after Charlie Brown first discovered the meaning of Christmas, the story is touching a new generation of hearts.
It’s hard to pin down what it is about “A Charlie Brown Christmas” that makes it iconic television.
All these years later, a Midstate woman closer to the production than most took a shot at explaining it.
This year, she watches it from an iPad.
“We try really hard not to just recite the whole show when we watch it,” Candy Shively said with a laugh, sitting in her home in East Berlin, Adams County.
The first time Shively watched it was in December 1965. That was the first time the special came on the air.
“We didn’t know what to expect, so my brother and my mom and dad sat there glued,” she remembered.
She had a good reason; one of the voices in the children’s choir that begins and ends the 25-minute show is hers.
Shively was a 12-year-old in the choir at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in San Rafael, outside San Francisco.
The choir director, Barry Mineah, asked for volunteers. The kids didn’t know what they were volunteering for.
“We didn’t see any of the video,” Shively said. “We had no idea what it was going to look like. They told us it was going to be an ice skating scene.”
The special aired just a few weeks after they recorded.
“You couldn’t DVR it. There was no such thing. You couldn’t record anything. It was on, it was over, and it was gone for a year,” she said.
“When I found out it was going to be on a second year, I was so excited…. It never occurred to me that it would be on more than once.”
You won’t see her name in the credits — or anyone else in the choir, for that matter. But it doesn’t bother her.
She said she was just a kid lucky enough to be involved.
Fifty years and hundreds of views later, one scene still sticks out to her: Linus walks out on stage and asks for the house lights to be dimmed. Watching the show Monday night, as Linus explained the Christmas story to Charlie Brown, Shively teared up.
“Gets me,” she said. “This is definitely the Christmas story, you know, and it’s told in a way that ordinary kids and ordinary people can understand. I mean, everybody understands being a kid like these kids.”
It’s hard for her to believe it’s been 50 years. It’s harder to imagine how we’ll be watching it in another 50.