Why is this special so popular? The animation isn't very good. It was done on a shoestring budget, they hired children that had no voice acting experience, and the editing and sound mix are terrible! It seems that the reason this special was a hit back then and still is today is that the message shines through all the mistakes and shortcuts. In fact, the quality of the animation has sort of set the standard for all other Charlie Brown specials that try to mimic the quirky style.
A Charlie Brown Christmas captures every essence of the Christmas spirit through the depressing life of Charlie Brown as he sets out to discover what Christmas is. He finds out that it is not about the gifts or the aluminum Christmas trees. in fact, this special speaks out against commercialism, Linus tells the story of Christ's birth from the Bible, and ultimately the gang help Charlie Brown realize that friends and family make the simplest of things, like his under appreciated Christmas tree, seem extra special.
Not only is this a holiday classic, but it is also quite historical for a number of reasons. It is the very first of a long line of Peanuts holiday specials. 50% of all televisions in the United States were watching it on its first airing on December 9, 1965. It won an Emmy and a Peabody award. It has been shown every single year since 1965. It was directed by ex- Warner Bros and UPA animator Bill Melendez.
You can find A Charlie Brown Christmas on DVD, but you may want to hold off until next year when Warner Bros (the new rights holders) will probably release a deluxe, two-disc special addition.