An ugly Christmas tree gets some love The official Christmas tree in Reading, Pennsylvania is a 50-foot Norway spruce that many residents compared to the spindly tree in "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (AP photos)
An ugly Christmas tree gets some love
Lexile

The Pennsylvania city's official Christmas tree has brought Reading plenty of grief. Good grief.

When the 50-foot Norway spruce went up last month, it drew immediate comparisons to the scraggly sapling in "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Its giant bare spots and asymmetrical branches were no one's idea of Christmas tree perfection. Especially in Pennsylvania, one of the nation's largest producers. Some residents and city officials called it an embarrassment. They demanded it be replaced with a more suitable specimen.

Instead, Reading decided to embrace the Charlie Brown theme.

Workers wrapped a blue blanket around its base a la Linus. They adorned it with a single red ball. The city announced a worldwide photo and essay contest. Winners are to receive copies of the book version of the beloved TV special. And the public is invited to give the tree a makeover, just like the "Peanuts" gang surprised Charlie Brown by turning his puny pine into a trimmed, twinkling tannenbaum.

Turns out Reading's tree wasn't bad at all, really. It just needed a little love.

"Christmas is so commercialized that we tend to forget what Christmases used to be like," said Mayor Vaughn Spencer. "Sometimes we have to keep things in perspective. And I think that's the lesson here."

Amy Johnson, the daughter of the late "Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz, said her father would be tickled that "A Charlie Brown Christmas" has made a real-world impact nearly a half-century after its release.

"All he ever wanted to do with his strip was make people happy," she said. "And if he could bring the town together, that would make him very happy."

As generations of fans know, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" has the lovable loser picking a tree for the Christmas play. After he rescues a tiny sapling that's losing its needles, the other kids scold him for his ineptitude and laugh derisively at the tree. Then Linus tells the biblical story of Jesus' birth, and the gang has a change of heart.

In Reading, the story doesn't have such a tidy ending.

Several pedestrians insulted the tree as ugly and unworthy as they walked past. The lone red ball was swaying in a stiff breeze.

One lifelong resident, Emma Vega, called it an unwelcome reminder of Reading's troubles. Once a mighty manufacturing hub, the city of 88,000 is among the nation's neediest. Forty percent of its residents live in poverty.

"Do we really need a tree as our mascot?" said Vega, 48, unemployed and looking for work. "Everyone knows Reading's poor. It looks even more poor with that tree."

For others, the tree offers up several timely messages. Nothing and no one are perfect. Be grateful for what you have. Make the most of what you've been given.

City Councilman Jeff Waltman said the tree symbolizes Reading itself, full of potential and ready for transformation.

"This tree carries its own little spirit," he said. "It has its own little voice now."

Critical thinking challenge: What about the tree troubled residents of Scranton, and why would people in Scranton be more troubled than people in other states?

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COMMENTS (68)
  • brady.q-
    12/23/2014 - 09:18 a.m.

    The story is all about the story ugly Christmas tree the kids made front of it it made Charlie Brown sad that the kids made of it

  • brady.q-
    12/23/2014 - 11:21 a.m.

    The storyi is all about Readings ugly chirsmas tree. Some people didn't like the tree at first. Some people did like the tree because living at Readings in Pennsylvania

  • JackR-5
    12/23/2014 - 06:23 p.m.

    A town in Pennsylvania has put up a ugly Christmas tree. They put one single red bull on it and a blanket around it's based to represent Charlie Brown. Many residents are upset about the tree because it kind of represents a bad time in the city's history. The city is very poor and some residents get upset seeing the tree. The city wants people to decorate the tree so it will look nice eventually. They want to remind us of the cities past.I think the tree is very cool. Representing Charlie Brown is a very unique aspect to the city.

  • MaxM-4
    12/23/2014 - 09:13 p.m.

    A scrawny, asymmetrical Christmas tree that went up in Reading, Pennsylvania drew a lot of attention. Some people compared its appearance to the tree in "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Some people were bothered by the tree's appearance, but others decorated it and thought it looked great.
    I think this is a great story, and would probably have been one of the people who gave the tree a chance. I was a little bothered by the fact that the author wasn't very clear on what Reading was.

  • HudsonC-3
    12/24/2014 - 12:48 p.m.

    This Pennsylvania city's Christmas tree is 50 feet tall. It does not look like a tree you would normally have in the center of town. It looks like the Charlie Brown tree from the widely known show. It has asymmetrical branches and one ornament. Some people called it an embarrassment others called it a pleasure to look at. I think this tree should stay up in the town square. Also the city should have reading classes under the tree.

  • LilyE-4
    12/24/2014 - 07:14 p.m.

    The town of Reading, Pennsylvania is taking after one of the most famous Christmas movies, "A Charlie Brown Christmas." A 50-foot Norway Spruce, representing the town's official Christmas tree, had giant bare spots and asymmetrical branches that were nowhere near perfection. But workers fashioned the tree to look like the tree in the favorite movie. However, the tree has been ridiculed by the townspeople of Reading, saying that the mascot just emphasizes the poverty of the town. I think that although some people may not enjoy this "little" tree, I think that this is a great way to embrace the Norway Spruce.

  • Kaylab-5
    12/25/2014 - 12:06 a.m.

    This story is about a tree in Pennsylvania that some came to like and some thought otherwise. When the tree was first put up in Reading, most residents believed that it was "ugly" and they did not want it representing their city.when they had a meeting to decide if they were to take it down they ruled against that and kept it up saying it represented gratefulness and spirit. During Christmas this year, they embraced the "Charlie Brown" feel and decorated the tree. I think that this is a very interesting story and a good lesson for people in general. If this were to occur in the city i live in i would to embrace the spirit of the tree.

  • HannahM-3
    12/25/2014 - 12:25 p.m.

    This Christmas, the small town of Reading has decided to pick a tree that resembles the one from Charlie Brown. Many people do not like this because they think they should have a proper tree unlike the one they have. Many people think that it is a disgrace to their town since they are already poor they believe the tree makes them look even more poor. Some people like the idea of the Charlie Brown Christmas though. They put one red ornament and a blue blanket around the base of the tree. I for one think that it is a very funny idea to have a Charlie Brown tree. If i lived in Reading, i would be for the Charlie Brown Christmas.

  • APangaro-1
    12/25/2014 - 03:17 p.m.

    Pennsylvania's city's official Christmas tree wasn't what people were hoping for. It was compared to the tiny Christmas tree on "A Charlie Brown Christmas." The tree had many bare spots and was an embarrassment to the city. Workers had rapped the real tree in a blue blanket around the base just like in the movie. The creator's daughter of "Charlie brown Christmas" said that her father would be so happy that his creation has made a real life impact. I think that getting a Christmas tree just like in the movie was such a creative idea.

  • AJ_Slater
    12/26/2014 - 11:55 a.m.

    Pennsylvania produces a lot of Christmas trees. Yet the city of reading is very unhappy with the Charlie brown looking tree just lacking decoration. So the mayor of reading decided to embrace the theme and remind everyone that Christmas is just about being fancy but also to be grateful for what you have. I think tit is really cool that the mayor decided to go with the "being grateful for what you have is its own reward way".

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