An ugly Christmas tree gets some love
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: 1170L

Assign to Google Classroom

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 and 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 and adorned it with a single red ball. The city announced a worldwide photo and essay contest, with winners 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, channeling good ol' Charlie Brown himself. "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, before 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 on a recent day, the lone red ball 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, with nearly 40 percent of its residents living in poverty.

"Do we really need a tree as our mascot?" said Vega, 48, unemployed and looking for work. "Everyone knows Reading's poor (and) 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 conifer 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?

Source URL:

Assigned 17 times

  • MFrancisco-Sti
    12/23/2014 - 09:24 a.m.

    M - There is a tree in Pennsylvania that is a bit damage.
    E - Some people want it to be replace at once. They also said that it was an embarrassment.
    A - I don't care if they have a tree or not Christmas is about spending time with your family and friends.
    L - A Christmas tree is want gone in Pennsylvania.

  • SDakota-Sti
    12/23/2014 - 09:24 a.m.

    I like that tree. It gives good meaning to christmas. You dont need a perfect christmas tree. This tree is not ugly to me it i think it can give hope to people who can't have a Christmas.

  • MEdgar-Sti
    12/23/2014 - 09:38 a.m.

    I think its god that someone cuts down that tree and decorates it because some times people only want the pretty trees maybe the other ones feel sad if trees had feelings. I would like to go there and put an ordainment. I think that is a good idea to show kids not everything needs to be perfect.

  • MGregory-Sti
    12/23/2014 - 09:57 a.m.

    i think its cool they got to put on Christmas stuff on the ugly tree because it was just sitting there in the cold ari

  • VDakota-Sti
    12/23/2014 - 10:00 a.m.

    I think that they should cut the tree down and plant many new ones. I personally dont like this tree and i dont think i ever will

  • VDakota-Sti
    12/23/2014 - 10:01 a.m.

    i think that they should cut this tree down i dont like how this tree looks and i dont like pine trees they should get rid of this one and plant a new one.

  • CStacey-Sti
    12/23/2014 - 10:16 a.m.

    The Idea of the charlie Brown Christmas tree I think is a good idea. I think its cool because its different then any other trees that have lights and lots of decorations on them .

  • ratiaira
    12/23/2014 - 01:55 p.m.

    that is cool because then the tree is actually really tall and can be loved like every other Christmas tree for everybody else and everybody like Christmas so why not give a gift to the tree

  • ratiaira
    12/23/2014 - 01:55 p.m.

    that is cool because then the tree is actually really tall and can be loved like every other Christmas tree for everybody else and everybody like Christmas so why not give a gift to the tree

  • CharismaM
    12/23/2014 - 01:57 p.m.

    I think this is a great thing to do. It brought the community together and they shared a fun moment. They did something as a whole.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment