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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  • GabiD-1
    1/02/2015 - 06:40 p.m.

    The was a Christmas tree put in Pennsylvania that was referred to as the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. The workers raped a blue blanket around the base of the tree and hung red ordainments on it. they also and a photo and essay contest an the winners receive a prize. I think that this is a great community project.

  • LaurenT-1
    1/02/2015 - 07:20 p.m.

    The Pennsylvania town's Christmas tree was ugly, easily compared to Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. The town decorated it with a single red ball and wrapped a blue blanket around the bottom. Although many consider this tree to make this poor city look even poorer, many think of it as a mascot.
    I think that this is a good lesson for everybody that Christmas needn't be flashy and rich, but genuine and united.

  • Samp-1
    1/02/2015 - 08:04 p.m.

    I think it's amazing that a ugly Christmas tree gets a lot of love. Just because something is ugly doesn't mean it can't get love. That Christmas tree is beautiful and it's own way.

  • BeckettN-2
    1/02/2015 - 09:17 p.m.

    This article is about a scraggy tree in Redding, Pennsylvania that was given a little extra attention because of its unkempt appearance. People find resemblance between the tree and the Charley brown Christmas tree, and so they decorate it like the kids did in the TV special. I think its great that something like this could bring a community together.

  • Eriku2
    1/02/2015 - 10:02 p.m.

    This is about an ugly Christmas tree. At first it was hated, but then people started to like it. They compared it to the Charlie Brown Christmas special. I think that this says don't judge a book by its cover.

  • JohnL-4
    1/03/2015 - 10:56 a.m.

    A Christmas tree in Reading, Pennsylvania, was looked down on by many because people thought it was ugly. The people who chose the tree gave it love and fixed it up, just like Charlie Brown did. However, people were still upset because the town was living in poverty, so people were upset because they believed the tree showed how poor they were. However, other people thought it was a good lesson to be grateful for what you have. I think that this tree was a great pick because it symbolizes that anything can be beautiful with a little love.

  • AmandaM-1
    1/03/2015 - 01:23 p.m.

    A small town in Pennsylvania gets a ragged Christmas tree. Some of the Pennsylvanians believe the tree is insulting. they think that it shows how poor the town is and portrays a bad image because it resembles a tree from Charlie Brown. some citizens admire it and decorate it with the red ornaments and a blue blanket. I like this article because it shows how one town can come together just to admire a small piece of nature.

  • AugustH-5
    1/03/2015 - 06:35 p.m.

    A 50 foot Norway spruce was commpared to the Charlie Brown christmas tree. People wanted this tree cut down because of its ugly appreance. A few workers wrapped a blue blanket around the base of the tree and hung a red ornament on one of the tree branches. The city also gave the tree a make over just like Charlie Browns tree. I dont know why they did this to the tree. I would not care and rather have better tree in the place of a ugly one.

  • sophies-4
    1/04/2015 - 05:11 p.m.

    This is an article about an ugly christmas tree. It looks a lot like the ugly christmas tree in Charlie brown, so the people of Pennsylvania city decorated it like the one in the christmas special. It was a 50 foot Norway spruce and it was put up last month. They wrapped a blue blanket around its base just like the one Linus carried around. They also put a single red ornament on it so it would look like the one in Charlie Brown. I think this is a great story because they gave ugly christmas tree a purpose and it turned out pretty well. This was a really cute idea.

  • EmilyK-2
    1/04/2015 - 09:56 p.m.

    This article is about a town Christmas tree that resembled the tree in "A Charlie Brown Christmas". Some of Reading, PA residents thought the tree brought out the worst in Reading, including the high poverty and unemployment rate. However, other residents thought that the tree brought the true meaning of Christmas back to the town. In my opinion, the tree was a great way to get the people of Reading together and doing something, even if it was as silly as decorating a tree. If it brings people together, I think it was a pretty great idea.

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