The Charlie Brown Christmas special stunted the popularity of fake trees

Good going, Blockhead! No, really – good job, Charlie Brown!

Image: ABC

Introduced in the late 1950s, aluminum Christmas trees hit peak popularity in the mid-'60s. And then A Charlie Brown Christmas debuted on December 9, 1965.

Viewers took to heart Charlie Brown's message about the true meaning of Christmas. The boy finds a scrawny little sapling and chooses the real tree over the artificial options. Critics and audiences adored the animated holiday special, the first cartoon special based on the Peanuts newspaper strip. More than 40% of all television sets were tuned into the broadcast to watch it.

Artificial trees sales saw rapid declines in the latter half of the decade. Inspired by Charlie Brown, Americans turned to real trees.

Fake trees met many demands of the modern household when they were first created. In fact, immediately after World War II, fake trees were quite prevalent in living rooms. The "brush bristle" style had been introduced in the 1930s by companies like Sears.

The silvery garland wound itself like a snake around these phony spruces. For an added touch of holiday cheer, the catalog even shipped the trees in a white wooden bucket.

Of course, no aluminum tree was complete without a rotating color wheel. The spotlight turned your Christmas scene into a veritable discotheque. We reached peak "Fake Tree Phase" here in the early 1960s. That would all change with a classic, charming Christmas special.

Wish Book WebRotating color wheel from 1960s JC Penney catalog.

Nowadays, the vote is split on which kind of tree is a better option but is currently leaning toward a more organic holiday approach. The National Christmas Tree Association reported that in 2018, real tree purchases in the United States were up by 20% despite the 4% increase in average prices compared to 2017. That year, 32.8 million real Christmas trees were purchased for an average of $78. In the same year, 23.6 million fake trees were also purchased at an average price of $104 per tree.

Whichever tree you choose, just remember that to make it look shiny and new, Linus reminds us that "all it needs is a little love."

Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


ELEANOR 55 months ago
The Charlie Brown tree, a woeful sapling with one ornament is also popular, symbolic of the reading of the Christmas story from the Bible.
RobCertSDSCascap ELEANOR 55 months ago
As told by Linus, who "never thought it was such a bad little tree".
snowpeck 55 months ago
You also don't need to buy a fake tree every year as it can be used over and over... so could some of the sales decline be attributed to people who were interested in having a fake tree already having one?
Pacificsun 55 months ago
Very cute story! And true sentiment!

In the 60's (and presuming the 70's) fads drove the styles of Christmas trees. Hard to conceive being without the internet, but people used to be impressed only by seeing what other people displayed in their window or displayed in the store. Aluminum Tinsel trees (as they were called) were popular beginning with commercial businesses, because they required no care and quickly caught the eye of customers & clients! But didn't translate so well into peoples' homes, missing that warm & fuzzy homespun feeling. Also trendy were "flocked" (and lightly glittered) trees, suggesting snow covered freshly felled trees (apparently!) because snow doesn't last very long inside!. Cottony flocked trees morphed into pastel colored trees, to match the shades of home decor, but needed a spotlight, which before LED, got hot (and quickly dried out trees). Not exactly a measure of safety. Extreme coloring included purple and (for some reason) a lot of pink. (I once saw even black). It's very good that "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (sentiment) helped return consumers to their sensibilities, and the experience of choosing a real tree from a designated farm.

Nothing can match the beautiful scent of pure nature!
TexasGreek Pacificsun 45 months ago
Very true. My Great Grandmother had a Pink flocked (real) tree each year. She also had the color wheel that turned. It made a slight sound as it reached a certain point and would put us all to sleep.
teire 55 months ago
Our neighbors across the street always cut their own tree, very adventurous in the early 60s. Then one year they got an artificial green tree for the ground floor picture window and an artificial silver tree with color wheel for the upstairs picture window of their split level home. Things were never the same.
15inchBlackandWhite 55 months ago
My grandparents had an aluminum tree, complete with color wheel, propped-up at a window that overlooked the passing traffic. Our family got real trees, until my grandfather read an article about how many children died each year in Christmas tree fires and he bought us an artificial tree.
AMgirl 55 months ago
Back around 1964 or '65 our neighbors bought one of those aluminum trees complete with the rotating color light, the whole neighborhood showed up to gaze in the living room tree because few of us had even seen a tree like that. I begged my parents for one but they always opted for the real thing. Didn't realize the Charlie Brown X-mas Special had an influence on that at all. I remember watching it the first time it was on & every year until I left home, then when I married & had children, my kids also enjoyed the special. Such great memories!
Moody 56 months ago
We always had real trees when I was growing up. My father absolutely hated fake trees. One of my uncles (his brother) bought one once & they argued every Christmas for years about it. It was great!
RobCertSDSCascap 56 months ago
We never had a "real" tree, because of my dad's allergies.
Never bothered us!
Also, cats will climb any Christmas tree they can find.
harlow1313 56 months ago
Regarding the show itself, I still dig the cool dance moves of the rubbery necked kid in the orange shirt. He even had punk-spiked hair.
Utzaake harlow1313 55 months ago
daDoctah 56 months ago
We had a plastic tree when I was growing up. When I started hearing about aluminum Christmas trees my first response was "who the heck would want *that*?" (The joke about real trees was to say "ours is made of wood".)
jojo68 56 months ago
My family had one of those color wheels. I believe it is still in a box at my mom's house.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?