In 1965, half-hour prime-time shows on television networks in the United States tended to be 25 or 26 minutes long without commercials. 35 years later, the length had slipped to 21 or 22 minutes long. This is the sole reason for the existence of "Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales."
When ABC outbid CBS for the rights to broadcast the holiday special "A Charlie Brown Christmas" beginning in 2001, they promised to run the show uncut. However, the uncut version is about 25 minutes and 30 seconds long. The economics of television being what they are, airing it with fewer commercials was not an option for ABC. Letting it run over its time slot was also not a good option, because there would have to be fewer commercials all night in order to get the affiliates' 11:00 news to start on time (since ABC's affiliates wouldn't stand for having an over-35-year-old cartoon delaying the local news).
The solution was to air "A Charlie Brown Christmas" in an hour-long time slot, and since hour-long prime-time shows are 43 or 44 minutes long without commercials, find about 18 minutes' worth of something else to fill up that time slot. In 2001, that something else was a documentary hosted by Whoopi Goldberg called "The Making of ëA Charlie Brown Christmas.'"
For the 2002 broadcast, however, ABC opted not to rerun that documentary. Instead, the network commissioned Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez, the same team that had produced all the "Peanuts" animated specials, to produce about 18 minutes' worth of new animation. The result was "Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales," a series of Christmas-themed vignettes featuring various "Peanuts" characters (but sticking mainly to characters also appearing in "A Charlie Brown Christmas"). Since the late Charles Schulz was unable to provide any new material, the sketches were all taken from Christmas-themed "Peanuts" comic strips of the past, adapted by Jason Mendelson. The even more late Vince Guaraldi was unable to provide new background music, so David Benoit stepped in to perform new versions of some of Guaraldi's music from "A Charlie Brown Christmas," including "Linus and Lucy," "Christmastime Is Here," and "Für Elise."
The vignettes are separated into five segments, with each vignette in that segment containing a certain character.