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
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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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Assigned 132 times

  • BrynnDani
    12/30/2014 - 03:50 p.m.

    Some people may disagree with me, but I feel that the tree sends a wonderful message and is a great symbol for the town. It teaches people to be grateful for what they have and make the most of what they've got and reminds its citizens of what Christmas is really about.

  • clairerocks26
    1/01/2015 - 11:17 a.m.

    I love charlie brown Christmas and this story was interesting.
    Critical Thinking: I think this tree afffected the residents of Scraton because 1 they live were the tree is and 2 they are know for having a great big tree.

  • SofiaA-4
    1/01/2015 - 03:45 p.m.

    A tree in Reading, Pennsylvania, has been called ugly, unworthy, and an embarrassment. Others call it a realistic mascot, a perfect tree for their town. With its uneven branches and bare spots, the tree isn't exactly what the town had hoped for. However, some people believe it's a good representation of what the town is like, "full of potential and ready for a transformation." Others think it is such a good representation, it embarrasses the town. One of the residents even mentioned that forty percent of the town's population is poor, and that this tree is just letting the whole world know that.

    I believe anything can be turned pretty. I don't think anything is truly ugly if you look closely enough at it. If this were to happen to my town, I would vote to keep it.

  • ksadat-5
    1/02/2015 - 10:50 a.m.

    Recently, a fifty foot tall Norwegian spruce tree went up in Pennsylvania. According to many of the residence there, the tree is a big embarrassment. Pennsylvania is one of the biggest producers for Christmas trees and this asymmetrical tree is unusually low to the Pennsylvania standards. THe trees has many bare spots, and it has no symmetry with its branches. Although it started off as no one liking it, once the tree received some attention, it turned out pretty good.

    This is a great thing that was done. It shows everyone to appreciative for what they have, in this case the tree, and not ask for more. This article taught me what a holiday really was. The tree doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be a Christmas tree. So what if it has Bare spots and scraggy branches, that's how a Christmas tree is supposed to look. A long while back, people cut down their own trees, not as big as this one, but the same in features.

  • NikkiS-5
    1/02/2015 - 11:11 a.m.

    Christmas is all about bring people together. Last month, a city in Pennsylvania started celebrating Christmas. They put up a huge 50-foot Norway spruce. This years theme was Charlie Brown. The tree it-self had huge gaps in between its branches and an asymmetrical shape. Some people called this tree an embarrassment of Christmas. Workers decorated this tree with a single red ball and wrapped a blue blanke aroung the bottom, which spoke the message: no one is perfect and be grateful for what you have. I think this city had a perfect "Charlie Brown Christmas." This was a holiday full of lessons and community.

  • MaggieM-3
    1/02/2015 - 11:36 a.m.

    In Pennsylvania a Christmas tree went up a month ago in the town Reading. The tree is a fifty foot Norway spruce and many people are unsatisfied with its appearance. People have been saying that the tree has reassembles the christmas tree in " A Charlie Brown Christmas" because of its uneven branches, and bare trunk. In the story "A Charlie Brown Christmas " Charlie Brown picks out a ugly christmas tree for a school play and gets grief from his friends for not picking out a big and beautiful tree. Then a bible story is told by Linus and the friends feel bad for picking on Charlie Brown and the tree. This beloved story is a book and also a TV special, that people can win with a world wide photo and essay contest that is put on by the city. The city decorated the tree with a blue blanket wrapped around the base and a single red ball hanging from the tree. The residents have mixed feelings about the tree.
    I think that having a more grand tree would be better for the city. I think that while the symbolism is uplifting many people passing through would not understand it, and it would reflect a bad image of the city to its visitors, but it is a sweet idea.

  • LaurenT-5
    1/02/2015 - 01:08 p.m.

    In Pennsylvania a 50 foot Norway Spruce grew up and became the center of attention. It had many bare spots and asymmetrical branches. People began to think of it as an embarrassment. No one thought of it as perfection. They thought of the tree as a Charlie Brown tree because of its looks. They decided to put a blue blanket underneath it and put a single red ball on the tree. Many people were in disagree of this tree and wanted it taken down. They didn't want to have a lonely tee as their mascot. But the tree also represents a message the nothing and no one is perfect. I think that it is very cool and cute that they did that in their neighborhood. I think it was a good idea.

  • CameronS-2
    1/02/2015 - 02:40 p.m.

    This article is about a ugly Christmas tree that get some love.The tree is a 50 foot Norway spruce. The city wrap blue blankets around the trees base and put one red ornament on it this is the reason the tree is so ugly.but many say one cannot be perfect but can be loved.The tree carries little spirit but has its own voice.I wonder why did they only put one ornament on it.

  • TaylorH-4
    1/02/2015 - 04:29 p.m.

    The Pennsylvania city's official Christmas tree brought reading a lot of grief. The Christmas tree is a fifty foot Norway spruce. This tree drew immediate comparisons to the Christmas tree in "A Charlie Brown Christmas". Workers wrapped a blue blanket around the tree's base. They also decorated it with a single red ball. I enjoyed this article because Christmas is my favorite holiday and my favorite part is the Christmas tree. I loved how they turned a bad Christmas tree into a good one.

  • japreep514
    1/02/2015 - 05:20 p.m.

    I think its great that in the article the tree was getting loved but it makes kind of sad that people want to hate the tree just because it looks bad on the outside and don't even see the symbolic gesture the tree makes.

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