Friday, December 23, 2011

It's A Wonderful Life

All George Bailey ever wanted was to get out of Bedford Falls, and he became more and more miserable as he realized he was never going to leave.

Charlie Brown, tortured by the over-commercialization of the season, thought he had gotten a nice tree, and all anyone did was mock him.

Bill Murray - TigerBlog can't remember the character's name - was a jerk in the movie where he plays the TV executive. The Grinch couldn't help being a jerk.

At first, Kevin was fired up to be Home Alone.

What happened to all of them and hundreds more in movies and TV shows?

Christmas, that's what.

When the right characters are put in the right situation with the right story - all of it centered around Christmas - well, there's really nothing else that matches up to it.

Take George Bailey.

For most of the movie "It's A Wonderful Life," all he wants to do is get out of his hometown outside Buffalo. He wants to see the world. He wants to travel. He wants to go and keep going and never come back.

So what happens? Well, if you've seen the movie, you know exactly what happens. And if you haven't seen the movie, go see it, and TB promises not to ruin it for you.

And the others?

The Grinch and Bill Murray both learn their lesson. So does Kevin, who turns out to be better at catching bad guys than he does at being a loner.

There are dozens of great Christmas movies. There are hundreds of great Christmas episodes of TV shows.

When one of those TV shows comes on in May or July or something, it immediately conjures up images of the holidays and immediately places the audience into the Christmas moment.

Christmas music?

It's been played on several radio stations around here since before Thanksgiving. If a station played it all year around, TB is pretty sure that people would listen, because of the same reason, how all of these songs take people right into the Christmas moment.

TB said this last year, and he'll say it again. Christmas is more than just a Christian religious holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Because of that, it's something that non-Christians as well can relate to, can embrace for themselves.

The United States has 10 official federal holidays. Of those 10, Christmas is the only one that is religious in nature. The other nine are completely secular.

It's been that way since President Grant signed the bill that made Christmas a federal holiday back in 1870. With all of the different religions in this country, which by the way includes the freedom to practice any religion as one of its most fundamental tenets, to have a religious holiday recognized by the federal government to this day suggest its universal importance and larger-than-religious connotations.

Besides, it's just a fun time of year.

As TB pointed out last year, the only times that Princeton Athletics grinds to a halt between September and June is for final exams and Christmas. No other religious holiday is exempt.

The men's basketball team played last night. The women's basketball and wrestling teams compete Dec. 29.

In between, there are no Princeton events.

It's an opportunity for all of the coaches and athletes - and everyone else who is part of Princeton Athletics - to take a step back from the games and have a chance to be with family and friends and enjoy the season.

And to think about those who don't have it as good as the rest, those who are struggling.

At the end of "It's A Wonderful Life," Harry Bailey gives a toast to the people of Bedford Falls.

TB has seen the movie about a thousand times, and he can't help but tear up every time Harry begins to speak, even though he knows exactly what's coming next.

TB isn't quite the most sentimental person of all time, and he understands that the Baily family is fictional. Hey, for that matter, he's not even a Christian.

And yet there's something about that moment, when it's all become so clear to George, who has figured out what really is important to him and what never really mattered that resonates so much.

It's not something that people think about all the time. It's something somewhat specific to this time of year.

"To my big brother George," Harry says, adding, "the richest man in town."

Merry Christmas to all.

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