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
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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 (69)
  • Hannahmab-3
    12/26/2014 - 01:10 p.m.

    When does a Charlie Brown Christmas become controversial? In the small town of Reading Pennsylvania they put up a Christmas tree for the holidays, the tree this year is not like the others. The tree was bare and not very liked by other members of the community, it resembled the tree Charlie Brown got in the famous cartoon A Charlie Brown Christmas. The people of Reading demanded that the tree be replaced and said it was a disgrace to the town. Other people had a different idea and made the tree up, they added one big, red ball, and a blue blanket at the base of the tree to mimic the one in Charlie Brown. even with the improvements some people were still unhappy. The mayor said we get so wrapped up in the excitement in Christmas that we forget the real meaning of Christmas. Some people believe the small bare tree resembles the town run down and in need of a change. Reading used to be and up and up town and is now on a downward spiral. The daughter of the late, Charles Shulz, aid that her Dad would be happy to see a tree bringing a community together.

    I don't remember seeing A Charlie Brown Christmas but do recall certain parts. I think the movie is funny and happy and believe that the people of reading are overreacting. The tree is fine juts the way it is and does not need to be replaced because it is not prefect. The real reason for Christmas is to e together with your friends and family and not about what you get. That tree is bringing the real meaning of Christmas to reading.

  • OliviaV-3
    12/26/2014 - 01:34 p.m.

    This article was about a Christmas tree in Reading, Pennsylvania. It is compared to the tiny sapling Charlie Brown got, and some residents do not like it. They think Reading is poor enough and the tree makes it look even more poor. Other residents however have decorated the tree like it was in Charlie Brown, with a blue blanket and a single red ornament. I liked this article because I thought it was cute that members of the community came together and decorated the weak tree.

  • LaurelM-4
    12/26/2014 - 02:18 p.m.

    Reading, Pennsylvania has a city Christmas tree that closely resembles the tree in "A Charlie Brown Christmas". Some residents thought of it as an embarrassment to the town and demanded that it was replaced. Instead, the town decided to go with the theme of Charlie Brown. They added a blue blanket around the base and hung up one red ornament. Some residents think it resembles how poor Reading actually is. I think that is a good, real life example of people making do with what they have. Some people aren't as fortunate as others but they are still grateful for what they have.

  • AllisonH-3
    12/26/2014 - 04:03 p.m.

    This article is about the Christmas tree that was put up in Reading, Pennsylvania. When it arrived about a month ago, many people demanded it should be returned because of how ugly they thought it was. Then some thought that it resembled the tree in "A Charlie Brown Christmas". They decorated it with a blue blanket and a single red ball, just like in the movie. It shows how it could bring the community together although some residents are still not happy because they think that it reminds them of Reading's troubles. 40% of the residents are unemployed. In my opinion, I think that it is a good idea. It may not be the best looking tree, but just like the article says, it brings a message that nothing and no one can be perfect, be grateful for what you have, and make the most of what you have been given.

  • SladeG-2
    12/26/2014 - 05:20 p.m.

    This article is about a christmas that has no symmetrical look at all and people think it is ugly and a disgrace to Pennsylvania. A company made the tree "a Charlie Brown Christmas". They put a blue blanket around its base and a red ornament to represent the the Charlie Brown tree. My opinion on the article is that I think that is is so cool that a group of people saw that tree and thought to do that.

  • SebastianH-1
    12/26/2014 - 07:03 p.m.

    A tree has been shipped to Reading, Pennsylvania to be the towns official Christmas tree. The tree they received was scraggly, bare, and asymmetrical so many people got angered by it. Others found that it looked like the tree from the "A Charlie Brown Christmas" special, and praised it. This article was not long or brief, but it was quick and had enough information to show all views on the tree.

  • SofiaB-2
    12/26/2014 - 07:57 p.m.

    This article talks about a Christmas tree that was branded unsuitable to be seen in the public eye in Pennsylvania city's land. Workers, though, decided to give it some love and gave it a small red ornament as well as a blue blanket to keep it warm at its base, the trunk of the tall tree. It was dubbed the Charlie Brown Christmas tree after it was given these decorative pieces that brought a significance, indeed it wasn't perfect but it still could be a Christmas tree. I think its good that the people of this town gave it a chance to shine on this day in its own, not-so perfect, light.

  • ConnorK-2
    12/27/2014 - 01:26 a.m.

    A piece of Charlie Browns world has seemed to seep through to the real world. A city in Pennsylvania has chosen a weak, weird, pathetic looking tree for there Christmas season, and at first the citizens took it as a joke but that quickly changed. Instead of replacing the tree the town decided to make the best of it. Town workers put a blue blanket around its base, and hung a large glistening red ornament to a single branch. The people quickly thought of Charlie Brown and his dinky little Christmas tree. However, some residents of the town frown upon this decision to keep the tree, but most think of it as a reminder to be thankful for what you have. The Christmas tree seems like a great change to the ordinary full Christmas tree.

  • KiraL-1
    12/27/2014 - 01:59 a.m.

    This article is about a Christmas tree, labeled as the one from the Charlie Brown Christmas special. A Christmas tree, to represent the state of Pennsylvania left residents unhappy because of its gaps and scrawny frame. The residents of Reading embraced the tree, and decorated it to look like the one on the Charlie Brown Special. This left some people happy, and created a message to be thankful for what you have and make the most out of it. For others, it reminded them how poor they actually are and it embarrasses them. I like the Charlie Brown concept for the tree. I think it is a creative concept to make the most out of what was given.

  • victorb-Wre
    12/29/2014 - 02:03 p.m.

    This story I just read was very cool.When they said that the covered it with a blanket I said that its very nice of them.

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