Christmas is almost here.  I know because tempers are getting shorter in lines at the mall and Johnny Mathis is roasting chestnuts in every elevator and doctor's waiting room in the country.  It's the most wonderful time of the year.  People celebrate differently all over the world.  You are sitting down to a hearty meal of ham, pickled pigs feet, dried fish, and biscuits in the shape of farm animals, while someone rides in on a straw goat.  Where are you? If you said a wedding reception at a wild game dinner in Alabama you would be close.  Actually, you are celebrating Christmas in Sweden.

Let's try again.  There is a man drenched with brine, his beard is dripping with seawater, and his face is covered with perspiration from trying to rescue ships.  Small boys are going house to house beating their drums, tinkling their triangles, and singing carols.  Later, a pig is slaughtered, they have a feast, and mischeivous goblins appear from nowhere. Where are you? If you said a children's choir Christmas party with our minister of music you would be close, but wrong.  If you guessed a cub scout troop attending their troop leader's wedding reception at a wild game dinner in Coastal Alabama you should be ashamed.  Actually, you are celebrating Christmas in Greece.

Our own personal country is full of traditions.  In the early part of our history, native Americans introduced the tortilla to the Franciscan Monks in the Southwestern United States.  The tortillas were fried in animal oil and dipped in a special mixture concocted for the Christmas celebration. The natives could not pronounce "Franciscan" so they just called them "Chipmonks." 

The idea of lighting the Christmas tree is credited to Martin Luther who was the first person to put lighted candles on the tree.  Because he also became the first person to forget to blow out the candles he was credited with creating the first volunteer fire department.  German immigrants brought this idea with them to our country when they landed in Pennsylvania,  They also brought the idea of the putz, similar to a nativity scene.  When the immigrants finished lighting the tree, and then putting out the fire, they would all gather around the television and watch "Young Frankenstein." As a finale, they would  join hands and sing "Puttin' on the Putz." 

One of my favorite things to do at Christmas (besides writing horrible chipmonk puns and making  references to the movie, "Young Frankenstein," that most people won't understand) is to watch the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life." It is the fictional story of George Bailey, a hometown boy who grows up in Bedford Falls, takes over his father's business, and almost loses everything. What he does not lose is the love and support of his family and friends.

Because the ending is so famous we often overlook the beginning of the movie. The first words spoken are prayers for George Bailey from his friends and relatives.  They love George. They are concerned.  The prayers are successful.  By the end of the movie George realizes that life is not so bad after all because he has been touched by other people and more importantly, he has touched others. 

George Bailey has changed because he has been "Christmasized."  It is what Christmas is all about. God touched us in the form of a baby and because of that baby we are to touch others.  Being Christmasized is nothing more than looking at life through Christmas eyes and seeing the needs of others.  If you know someone who is discouraged this Christmas give them a touch. Encourage them. Let them know you care. Send them a card.  Call them. Pray for them.  Christmasize someone. It's not a bad tradition to start. You can find it in any town, city,  or country. It begins at Bethlehem . . . and somehow finds its way all the way across the world to places like Bedford Falls.

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