The stockings were emptied; the nog was congealed, and Jesus had come in the night and disappeared again to the North Pole. This morning, per tradition, we gathered around the family table and explained to my brother who Liberace was. As with any unit of culture, the more we described him, the weirder he seemed. Surely, future generations will regard Liberace as an important-though-flawed pioneer in the defining civil rights movement of our time—a sort of lace-festooned Booker T. Washington. Even from our near perspective four decades later, it seems impossible that his audience did not recognize him as gay. Yet there he was in 1969, noting that now the most popular form of music is rock and roll and bidding good night to his mother and never, ever acknowledging his sexuality except with a wink, lest his career be instantly destroyed. Also he made his boyfriend get surgery to look more like him. Ours is a peculiar culture, but I would not trade it for all the Tao in China. We’ll be back tomorrow with paralyzing anxiety re: fiscal cliff. Happy holidays, you guys.