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Increase the Holiday Survival Rate with the Five Elements

Keys to Harmonize your Holidays

Holiday gatherings can be tough. People may recall old hurts, disagree on politics and the way a toilet roll should be hung in the bathroom. Kids laugh, run, push parents’ limits, and have melt downs. Someone is sad or not flourishing in life.

Understanding one another on many levels can help foster effective communication. Effective communication can lead to greater harmony among groups – including families! Even during the Holidays!

Chinese philosophy explains the Five Element Theory as a way to describe interfaces and relationships between things, people, and things and people. The five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) are thought to underlie all interactions in the world (Image from

Every person has characteristics associated with each of the Five Elements and, at any given time, one element tends to be dominate. This means a person will typically have a primary and a secondary element. A person could be a Fire/Earth, with Fire being the primary element and Earth being the secondary element – that is, the individual has more characteristics associated with those two elements, than with the other elements. We also go through phases in our lives in which these relationships can change and the formerly Fire/Earth may become a Wood/Fire. These fluctuations can be due to changes in ones’ personal insight and development, situations one experiences, and even the company one keeps. For example, parenthood may yield increases in characteristics of Earth energy, including taking care of and looking out for others. If working in a very prescribed job requiring great attention-to-detail and decision making based on facts (not emotions), the characteristics associated with Wood or Metal may show, such as attention to detail, planning, or deep thinking.

We can use the Five Elements to understand ourselves and those around us, improving interactions and cultivating an atmosphere that benefits all involved!

How about using these ideas during holidays?!

Yes! Anything to create harmony and survival, right?!

Below you can see a chart encompassing some associations with each of the elements. Let’s see how we can use this information to Harmonize our Holidays! You might look at the chart to see where you believe you, or your friends and relatives might fit. You could also make it a game and ask if others would like to learn their element! You can do this at Dondi Dahlin’s website – This should be fun and informative. If someone doesn’t agree with the assessment they receive on the website, don’t worry about it! Let them identify the characteristics they identify with, themselves!










Go with the Flow

Growth, Development, Expansion,


Enthusiasm, Spirit, Warmth, Transcend the Ordinary

Care-taking, Creativity

Accomplishing, Extracting and Refining the Core from the Experience



Strength, Accomplishment

Present-Centered Living

Caring. Compassionate


Honoring Procedure, Quality, and Merit

Positive Qualities They Bring



Being ‘solid’ and dependable

Joy, Love



Stress Response


Goes Deep

Anger, Frustration, Shakes their tree

Panic, unnerve, Can Burn Out

Worry, Concern, Anxiety

Run-off Rumination

Grief, Hollowness,






Lack of sensitivity to others

Losing balance and becoming overwhelmed

Can become manipulative & interfering

Need to be right & in control

Energy Quality














Unconditional Lover













Sensory Organ







Blue, Black


Red, Pink

Yellow & Earth Colors


Metallic Shades

NOW, Let’s ask:

What does a person with high associations in one of the Five Elements bring to the party that can make it more fun? What conversations they might find interesting? What you might feed them or ask them to bring? How you might decorate their plate setting or wrap their gifts to help them feel comfortable? All this can be done with or without informing guests and family. Try it and let me know how it goes!

Water: Ask a person high in Water characteristics to suggest new traditions (beginnings), for help with transitioning the group from one activity to another (create a nice flow – such as moving from watching TV, to coming to the table), to consider helping write an honest compliment to be placed at the table for each guest, and pair them (in seating) with others who like to discuss the deeper meanings of life. To engage them in conversation and highlight their uniqueness, ask them about any new learning or travel they’ve experienced this past year and what it meant to them. If you say a prayer or share a sentiment before eating, ask them to offer one about hope for the future. Ask them to bring (or you supply) snacks with a salty taste – chips, nuts, or pretzels. Perhaps choose blue to wrap their gifts, signify which glass is theirs, or as part of their gift! When things become too much for a water, they go deep…often within themselves. They conserve energy, so they may need some time alone to renew their energy flow, perhaps a walk or some time in silence. Water flows and if their flow is accidently blocked, it can dam-up and build to a difficult peak. The dam can overflow or develop leaks. Those with a primary water element are great to have around, as they flow here and there, soothing others with their cool energy, and helping things move smoothly.

Wood: You might ask someone with high Wood characteristics of Wood to help you identify traditions that have worked well for your family or group in the past, and that you should continue. Individuals high in this element are solid and dependable. Their presence can help others feel safe and secure. Others are drawn to them, often feeling calmer just by sitting near them. You might consider asking someone who is high in Wood characteristics to help greet arrivals at the door. You make quietly request they  stand nearby when two people seem to be bristling, perhaps even engaging one of bristlers in an alternate conversation – in a different section of the environment. They might help you write an area of growth they see in the others and place it at each persons’ place at the table at one meal. For a conversation starter, ask them what they’ve been doing recently or what they’ve learned, pair them (in seating) with students who may be interested in discovering what they’d like to do for a living or what schools are available, or seat them with other life-long learners. If you express a sentiment or pray before eating, ask them to emphasize the strength that exists in all of us and will help us attain our goals in the new year. Ask them to bring one of their favorite ‘comfort foods’. Offer, or ask them, to bring snacks, drinks, or side dish with a tangy taste, such as lemon cookies, lemon drops or margaritas, cranberries, or items cooked with yogurt (mashed potatoes with yogurt – yum)! Use green for their gifts, maybe even offering gifts of growth, such as classes or grasses (plants). When stressed, it can shake their tree causing leaves to fall, bits of anger and frustration possibly emerging. They generate energy and they may know of a game, exercise or activity that bring energy to the surface, as well as help it dissipate. Those strong in Wood element bring balance and support. They will help you put the party together, keep it going, and clean up afterwards – all until completion!

Fire: Those high in the characteristics of the Fire Element will bring light to your life! And your gathering! They are warm, enthusiastic, and brimming with joy when at their peak. You might ask them to help plan activities (walks, games, creations) for both adults and children, to take the appetizers around to people or get their initial drinks, to bring attendees joy and love…and get the party started. They are fire starters, if a gathering becomes stale. They burn, so ask them to help in the kitchen as they are quick and efficient. For conversation starters, you might ask them what in their life has seemed magical or distinctive in the last year, or perhaps ask them about their passions in life. Seat them next to someone they won’t overwhelm with their excitement, but instead is a fairly good listener who can hold their own! They can bring encouragement and excitement to others, so you might ask them to address the group, or offer a prayer, about bringing joy, laughter, and radiance into the next year. As the spice of life, provide (or ask them to bring) dark leafy greens – spinach casseroles and salads, as well as items cooked with herbs and spices – green beans with hints of garlic. Their color is red and pink along with other bright colors denoting happiness. Their energy is expansive and catching. Fires flame and flames bounce about, constantly reaching up and spreading out. When they are beyond their limit, they flame out, burn out, become overwhelmed and tend to need total rest, such as a nap or early bedtime. It is lovely to have those high in the Fire Element at a gathering. They bring happiness and joy, often telling jokes or funny stories, showing whole-hearted excitement for others’ dreams and goals, and entertaining others.

Earth: Want to feel cherished, special, and care for? Invite a few people with the characterics of Earth to be party. In fact, have them help you give the party as co-hosts or hostesses!! They will check on each of the guests automatically – “Do you have enough? Would you like something different? Is everyone engaged with someone? They make certain no one feels alone or neglected. They want to know the favorite foods, drinks, and snacks of each person attending and make certain one of their favorites is available. Sometimes, I think they express the soul of holidays. Ask them to help with anything. They will do their best to comply. However, they also need the deep communication with others and to feel their efforts are noticed. If you wish to start a conversation, ask them about someone else! Or ask about what they are doing that might be helping someone. Often, they are delivering meals-on-wheels, volunteering in their community or church, running non-profits, and ‘being there’ for their friends. Seat them next to whomever needs encouragement or a serving of attention (and can stand some mothering!). Their sentiments are in caring for one another and valuing relationships and family, so their prayer may focus there. They tend to enjoy sweet tastes, perhaps sweet potatoes, and fruits, grains, milk and natural sugars. Their colors are the colors of the earth, yellows, tans, browns, and designs that imitate nature. Their energies are stabilizing, and they do not mind the ordinary chores and tasks of life, as they believe those everyday chores are some of the fundamentals of life. Those who are high in the Earth Element take care of us. We feel it when we are around them. They can create an atmosphere associated with family at its’ best – loving, caring, and helping one another – forever.

Metal: Those who are metal do a quality job…and don’t always understand why everything one undertakes isn’t approached with the same reverence and dedication to excellence. If you’re going to do something, do your best! Ask them for help with anything that needs precision or precision in procedure! Ask them to help with more intricate dishes (they probably already have some of their own specialties, they can suggest), to help assemble toys or gifts, or to help with keeping track of time. The excel at the organization and minutia necessary to support a bigger picture. They are superb at consolidating a discussion into its’ most pertinent points, often without letting their own opinions infiltrate and take over. They do like to be correct however, and often do not venture an opinion that is not based in facts and research. To begin a discussion with them, ask them about their interests and how they do something, but be ready to hear about the entire process step-by-step! You can learn a lot from them. If you ask them to assist, remember you are asking them to lead the way. They are good at it, so step aside and let them take charge! Those with metal characteristics are respectful, awed, and humble. In prayer or sharing of sentiment, they may express gratitude for nature, the mind, and the immensity of spirit. Seat them next to other thinkers, organizers, or scientists. They may enjoy the pungent tastes of chilis, peppers, herbs and spices that stimulate digestion and metabolism, perhaps ginger in their tea and a bottle of hot sauce on the table. Should an individual high in the characteristics of the Metal Element feel stressed, s/he will often withdraw and perhaps become sarcastic or cynical. As their energy is contracting, it is helpful for them to feel in control and they may need to step out of chaotic situations. It does not necessarily mean they are disinterested, but they need to address issues when participating parties are calm, rational, and each person really listens to one another.


I do hope these suggestions are helpful for you and those you interact with over the holidays! Don’t forget yourself and what YOU need to survive and thrive over the holidays!

Happy Holidays!

Be Kind, Be Loving, Be Well
(VitaLife Insight: Lessons from the Chair”, by Valerie Vita)

*NEVER use knowledge of the Five Elements to hurt, harm, or ridicule others!*


NEVER use knowledge of the Five Elements to hurt, harm, or ridicule others!!