Odds and (Year) Ends #21: Peak Christmas?
Plus electricity interconnections and Noel's House Party. The perfect combination of topics.
Hello! It’s time for Odds and Ends, your newsletter-within-a-newsletter, with links and smaller takes than my usual longer work. It’s a bonus edition this time, in lieu of the regular essay because, hey, it’s still technically Christmas. And besides, I have some more festive data-mashing to show you.
A weirdly sincere note
As we close out 2023, I want to thank you again for subscribing to my Substack. It was only last August when I rolled the dice, and sent out an email asking if you’d be willing to pay for a subscription to support my work. And to my delight, enough of you have signed up to make Odds and Ends of History a going concern.
At risk of over-sharing1, on a personal level, this has been a big deal for me.
Though I was enjoying my work before, I definitely felt a little professionally directionless. But with your support, I feel like I’m actually building an audience and a community of people who like me think that we can build a better world, and that perhaps one day we really can liberate the Postcode Address File.
So thanks again for supporting my work – and rest assured that next year I intend to do even more of the same: Sharing big ideas, slagging off bad ones, and trying to think clearly about complex issues. Oh, and probably picking a few fights with people I actually really like too.
More broadly in 2024, I’m looking forward to continuing to work on my other regular writing gigs, as well as helping to build and grow What’s Happening Now with my friend Sam (go and subscribe over there. It’s free and we have exciting plans for Q1!).
And hey, if there is anyone in publishing reading who would like to offer me a massive advance to write the definitive book on how boring, technocratic, social democracy can win the 21st century, I’d be very happy to do that too (posting this here in a completely shameless attempt to generate some interest).
Anyway, enough sincerity, let’s get on with what you really clicked here for: Data-driven analysis of Christmas music.
Reviewing the Christmas Index
Christmas is a happy time of year for many people, but it can also feel quite oppressive. As I’m a childless atheist, I’m personally pretty ambivalent about the whole thing, to the extent that I horrified my partner a couple of weeks ago by suggesting that the enforced break is sort-of annoying. Though I enjoyed seeing my family, I’m also currently enjoying my work (see above), and I’ve got a bunch of fun events lined up for January.
So my cold, black heart is pretty sympathetic to Christopher Hitchens, who once described the Christmas period, with everyone forced to listen to the same music, as “like living in fucking North Korea”.
Anyway, it was rewatching this clip that reminded me of something I did a few years ago for Gizmodo UK, where I tried to quantify the exact amount of ‘Christmas cheer’ in the air.
The premise was simple: People complain about Christmas getting earlier every year – but can we actually measure how “Christmassy” we collectively feel at any given moment? And do we as a culture experience early-onset Christmas?
Luckily, we have a proxy we can use to figure this out. Just like how we can measure the overall health of the stock-market by looking at the performance of an index of all of the stocks collectively, we can use an index of Christmas music to measure how how much Christmas music is being consumed – and thus how much Christmas cheer is being felt.
So without further ado, here’s this year’s ‘Christmas Index’.