The Holidays: What Really Matters to the People in Your Life?

Dear Vicki: “I’m devastated that my grandchildren won’t be here for Thanksgiving. How could their parents decide to take them to Hawaii?”

Dear Vicki: “I don’t want to go to the company holiday party. Can I get out of it?”

Dear Vicki: “My husband is obsessed with finding the perfect gift for his best friend. How can I convince him that’s not the point?”

Dear Vicki: “I want to host the family holidays this year. I throw better parties, but my sister says they’re too loud. Who should win?”

Dear Vicki: “My wife and I have always had a quiet ceremony on New Years Eve, but now she thinks we should go to her best friend’s house instead. Really?”

Etc. Etc. Etc.

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Dear Readers: Every year, letters from you abound regarding how best to address thorny holiday issues. So in the name of holiday harmony, I once again offer this brief reminder of what will matter the most to each of the Five Element personalities during the holiday season.

To paraphrase A Tale of Two Cities, the holiday season is the best of times, and the worst. The holidays celebrated from November through January, replete with tradition and meaning, guarantee that ceremony and fun will end up co-mingling with pushed buttons and dashed expectations. “We’ve always done it this way; that matters to me” must dance with “We’ve always done it this way; I think it’s boring.” To help keep your relationships harmonious during the holiday season, here is a brief summary of what will matter most to the people in your life, and what won’t. There are also a few suggestions regarding ways to keep the season happy for everyone.

Water Personalities: Odd as it may seem, in the Five Elements model the hustle-bustle of the holidays sits in Water time, which is winter here in the northern hemisphere. Winter is a time for quietness and contemplation, and this energy of going inside sets the tone for Water people’s lives. That means you shouldn’t expect your Water friends and family to start acting like Fires just because the holidays are here. On their own, or in quiet talks with others, Waters will emphasize the meaning of the season and how it relates to the bigger picture of almost everything. Ultimately, they might be willing to participate in events they deem important, but you may still need to coax. If and when they do show up, help them feel welcome and part of things by finding a small group of people with whom they can enjoy deep discussions. I know one woman who invites several philosophy junkie friends to her family party every year to help keep her Watery uncle engaged. Be gentle with the Waters and remember that if things get too intense, they might float away to a quiet cove for a while. Let them. And holiday season or not, remember that time alone will still be of paramount importance to your Water friends and family.

Wood Personalities: The Wood people in your life will approach the holidays with planning zest and zeal. There will be lists of gifts, deadlines for mailings, calendars of events, etc. Woods need to do this because it helps the holidays feel less chaotic for them. Remember that chaos takes down Wood and drives it crazy. In the Five Elements model, Wood is new yang, the channel between the mystery of Water and the celebration of Fire. During the holidays, more than most other times, Wood people need a foot in both worlds.  Busy-ness won’t be a problem for them, but they also need quiet time in between events to anchor their roots in the ground and prepare for the next onslaught of merriment. Whatever they are doing, from finding the perfect gift to throwing the perfect party, if they spin out remind them that the spirit of the season matters more to most people than a gift or an event. And if you expect Wood people to enjoy themselves at a holiday event they didn’t plan, give them a role. Greeter, punch-maker, speaker, guest book monitor, whatever. Having a role makes them comfortable and more likely to have a good time. The Woods in your life will probably march through the holiday season in great shape if you allow them time to prepare and support them in accomplishing the goals they set, whatever those may be. 

Fire Personalities: Fire people guarantee that the holidays will be happy and lively. In the Five Elements model, Fire is full yang, which equates to summer, a season of action, abundance, and merriment. Because winter is often a dreary time for many Fires, the opportunity to gather with others and celebrate almost anything during the holiday season is usually very welcome. Parties will be fun, spontaneity will abound, and everything will be marvelous during the holidays for most Fires. If you give them opportunities to connect with people – and be the center of attention – they will be happy. That said, Fire people will probably need some help with boundaries regarding how many events they can attend and still stay sane (hint for non-Fires: it’s more than you might think). If you do this, your Fire friends and family will light up the holidays without burning out themselves, or you. And remember, Fire is about inspiration and transformation, so don’t be surprised if Fires are especially drawn to holiday events that have a cause or inspire action. Fire people love having everyone involved in the fun and happiness.

Earth Personalities: The holiday season was made for Earth people because most holiday events include getting together with family and friends, which is important to Earths. And almost every gathering involves food, especially sweets, which is total Earth heaven! Long-time connections matter deeply to Earth people, so their holiday activities will be built around time spent with loved ones. Earths hate when people are left out, so are often the ones who volunteer to cook or serve food to the less fortunate. And because the Earth personality likes to feel needed, remember to include them in planning and hosting events. Earths also love to give gifts they’ve made themselves, so be patient if your sister is overly preoccupied with knitting matching sweaters for her five children. Let the Earths in your life express their love, but help them avoid overwhelm by reminding them that more is not necessarily better. Four desserts for any one meal are plenty. Earth represents balance in the Five Element model, but even they can overdo things during the holiday season. Assure them that other people want to help them just as much as they want to help others, and all will be well.

Metal Personalities: During the holidays, the Metal people you know might need a little help getting into the holiday spirit; frivolity can seem like such a waste of time to them. However, they’re very kind people who bring wisdom to any gathering, so cajole them into attending and everyone (including the Metals) will be glad they did. In the Five Elements model, the past is the arena of Metal, so including a bit of history or context as part of any celebration will make the event more relevant for Metal people. Because Metal holds the position as the last element, Metals usually manage the transition from one year to the next with ease. However, sometimes ending a year or remembering someone who is no longer with them can make Metal people sad. The easiest way to help Metals avoid this pitfall is to include them in holiday events where the nurturing of Earths can feed them and the joy of Fires delight them. Even though they protest, holiday gatherings are usually very good for Metals.

Bottom Line: As you can see, each of the Five Element personalities brings their own gifts (and occasional pitfalls) to the holiday season. With a little awareness, we can help create enjoyable holidays for everyone and deepen all of our relationships in the process. And that’s something to be thankful for as we kick off the season. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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