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Merry 50th Christmas, Charlie Brown!

ABC already aired "A Charlie Brown Christmas" this season, but it was on this day, Dec. 9, when it was first broadcast 50 years ago.

A few generations of Americans, maybe others, too, have committed this 25-minute gem to memory: The opening sequence with the Peanuts kids skating on the pond; Snoopy's antics; Vince Guaraldi's sweet, melancholy soundtrack; the sad, drooping Christmas tree; Charlie Brown's failed attempts at directing the school's holiday play; Linus sharing his thoughts on the true meaning of the season, and finally, that great gathering of the kids at the end, singing quietly around Charlie's tree and then boisterously wishing him "Merry Christmas!"

You've probably also heard some the trivia. Coca-Cola was the original sponsor and the original broadcast included mentions of the product, which is ironic given the special's message of anti-commercialism. Network execs were initially disappointed, calling the animation too primitive
and the music too sad and slow. But that first broadcast attracted more than 15 million people and earned rave reviews. That sad soundtrack, meanwhile, has gone triple platinum and sells a zillion more copies each year.

When production on the special wrapped, animator Ed Levitt told producer Bill Melendez (also the voice of Snoopy) "This is the best special you'll ever make. This show is going to run for a hundred years." Well, we're halfway there and there's no indication that any network has plans to scuttle it.

ABC, in fact, will air the show again this year, on Christmas Eve, as part of a two-hour special including various musical performances and a documentary. In the meantime, here's our own tribute.