Sarah Palin launches book tour in Bethlehem, Pa.

Former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin launched a tour to promote her new book about restoring the religious spirit of Christmas in — where else? — Bethlehem Township, Pa.

Wearing a custom-made sweatshirt with the slogan, “It’s OK to wish me a Merry Christmas!” Palin greeted fans at a Barnes & Noble store in the eastern Pennsylvania city Tuesday evening.

xmaspalin_small Sarah Palin launches book tour in Bethlehem, Pa.

The (Easton) Express-Times reports the appearance drew more than 700 people to the store.

Palin didn’t pose for pictures or write personalized messages in copies of her newest book, “Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas.”

The store opened an hour earlier than normal to accommodate those who wanted to arrive Tuesday morning to buy a book so they could return for the signing from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. One customer told Palin they woke up at 1:30 a.m. so they could stand in line to buy the book earlier in the day, then grab a numbered wristband for the line to meet Palin that night.

“Well, welcome to our world!” said Palin, who explained her family travels at odd hours for such appearances. She was accompanied by her husband, Todd.

“We didn’t know her husband was going to be here,” said Mary Hazuka, from nearby Williams Township. “That’s a plus.”

Palin’s tour is focusing on smaller markets, and she purposely chose to start it near the neighboring city — also named Bethlehem — with an obvious connection to the holiday.

Bethlehem was founded by Moravians on Christmas Eve, 1741. Its nickname is the “Christmas City” and the city draws many tourists during the holiday season.