I love Christmas.

Like, I really love it. I’ve been a sucker for it my whole life.

Every radio in my orbit has been tuned 24/7 to Holiday Traditions on SiriusXM since December 1st (you can have Mariah Carey). We plow through Christmas movies like an advent calendar and see A Musical Christmas Carol at the theater like clockwork. I still handwrite holiday cards to every member of our growing team, which keeps me practiced in the dying art of cursive. 

If it’s a Christmas rite, I’m all about it – except eggnog. That shit is nasty.

Thankfully, Elf on the Shelf came along after our kids were more grown. We escaped that nightmare by the skin of our teeth.

We named our youngest daughter Noelle. Our Christmas bona fides are legit.

I don’t remember when I figured out Santa wasn’t the literal manifestation we see in movies, but I’m fairly certain it was later than most people. Well into early adulthood, I wouldn’t let my parents put presents under the tree until I went to bed on Christmas Eve, just so I could pretend. Sorry mom.

Tara’s more practical. All the family presents go under the tree as soon as they’re wrapped, because she likes the ongoing visual. But, while our girls have both wised up to Santa being an idea more than a flesh and blood being, the last two presents won’t make an appearance until they wake up on the 25th.  

Tara introduced me to a rule when our kids were young – which I embraced wholeheartedly. Namely, that Santa only brings one present for each kid, something “accessible.” Our girls have enough privilege. We never wanted to explain why Santa brought them an iPad or gaming console, when other kids got much less. Santa isn’t more generous to rich kids. If anything, it should be the opposite. 

Tonight, we’ll go to church, where I’ll inevitably shed a tear, thinking of my Dad when everyone lights their candles and sings “Silent Night.” Then, the girls will open their Christmas pajamas and leave cookies for Santa.

Tomorrow, we’ll wake up early and open presents before I make eggs Benedict and post a picture of it on Facebook, saying “Happy Hollandaise,” because I always do. Tara and I will drink mimosas and – at 18 – maybe even let Maddie have one. 

Whatever you celebrate, however you celebrate it, we’re wishing you a warm and restful holiday and a happy and prosperous new year. Thank you for gifting me a sliver of your precious attention every week.  

Here’s what we’re seeing: 

Consumer confidence continued its late-year surge as inflation chills. Our Economic Sentiment Index had its fifth consecutive upward swing, bringing it within a couple of points from pre-Russia/Ukraine levels. Confidence in personal finances saw the biggest lift thanks to more-positive-than-expected declines in inflation over the past month. The one drag on the Index was the outlook for the longer-term U.S. economy, as consumers fear the lasting effect of rising interest rates. I still can’t stop wondering if the Fed is jumping the shark. 

In more cheery economic news, the percentage of Americans who say they’re better off financially since before the pandemic has improved steadily since October. To be fair, a larger number (33%) still say they’re worse off, compared to those who are better off (28%), but that gap is the smallest it’s been since May. Falling gas prices, slowing inflation, and rising wages have helped to buoy consumer financial health – and spending – against all odds. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a reversal once all the Christmas credit card bills show up in January, but let’s hope we recover from that quickly.

Emotional well-being among Gen Z, however, is not as rosy. There’s a lot to think about in the chart below and this study. The obvious and ominous headline is the dramatic disparity in emotional wellness across age groups in America. Even as economic sentiment (which is often correlated with our Well-Being Index) has improved in aggregate, well-being among Gen Z has eroded since September and remains far below that of any other generational cohort. We can infer from the data that young adults today are less affected by external events – there’s something else happening. Notice how every other age group reacted to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or how Millennials reacted to the election in November. We have a mental health crisis in this country among Gen Z and we need to address it. 

Self-gifting is one cure for emotional malaise and it’s growing. Even in tighter economic times, the number of Americans who say they’re buying holiday gifts for themselves this year is up nearly 20% from 2020. The percentage of people who plan to spend over $200 on themselves has gone down considerably, however, likely due to the rising costs of buying gifts for everyone else. Still, it appears from our data that self-gifting is a good cure for the holiday blues.   

Musical theater audiences are getting younger. We’re a huge Broadway family, in case you just started reading this. I also know from a musical theater board I’m on that attendance is still far short of pre-pandemic numbers, which sucks. The glass-half-full story, however, is that theatergoers are now much younger (if only because older, more at-risk people are going far less). While that may not be great in the short-term, vis-à-vis revenues, it gives theater companies the opportunity to break free of their Innovator’s Dilemma. I hope they have the courage to capitalize.    


Elon Musk’s Twitter poll was remarkably accurate, if by coincidence. A scientific poll we ran this week found that 60% of Americans believed Elon Musk should forfeit his reins of Twitter, pretty damn close to the 57.5% of Twitter users who said the same in Musk’s homemade poll. Considering that only 16% of U.S. adults are daily users of the platform, they’re all sorts of biased (psychographically speaking), and it’s impossible to know how much the results were influenced by bots, the parity between the numbers is wild. Meanwhile, Musk’s public approval seems to have stabilized in “Trump territory” – not coincidentally. 


More pre-holiday awesomeness from the CivicScientists:

The most popular questions to finish up the year:

Answer Key: Broad-based; Air; No, never; Embrace it, when called for; They’re stupid, but Scorpios are the best.

Hoping you’re well.


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