- Americans are 5 times more likely to say their level of stress increases rather than decreases during the holidays.
- Knowing your “holiday personality” can help you navigate the holiday season.
- Taking this quick holiday personality assessment can prompt self-reflection about the holidays and help you determine what your holiday personality is.
The holidays bring up different feelings for different people.
And how you feel and react to the holidays may indicate your “holiday personality,” says Natalie Dattilo, PhD, clinical health psychologist.
Dattilo created the “holiday personality” assessment because she believes everyone has opinions about the holidays, whether they are strongly held or not.
“Knowing your ‘holiday personality,’ or what it is you value most about the holidays, can help you be more authentic and intentional in how or with whom you choose to spend this time of year,” she said.
The following assessment is designed to prompt self-reflection about the holidays and determine what your “holiday personality” is through answering a few simple questions.
- When you think about the holiday season, what is the first word that comes to mind? Family? Fun? Stress?
- How do you feel about the holiday season, honestly? (Not how you think you should feel!)
- Do you look forward to it? Do you secretly (or not so secretly) dread it? Do you find yourself feeling lonely this time of year?
- Do you feel more pressure and obligation?
- Do you relish in it and wish it would never end?
Your answers to these questions can help you determine if you fall into one of three general “holiday personality” types, which are:
Traditionalists tend to value familiarity, routine, and predictability around the holidays. They enjoy feeling rooted to tradition, which gives this time of year more purpose and meaning for them. Sometimes, they end up doing things primarily because “it’s the way it’s always been done.”
Celebrationists tend to value spontaneity, people-pleasing, gift-giving, and merriment. They like to celebrate and may feel pressure to make sure others are having a good time. Sometimes they may “throw caution to the wind,” especially when it comes to spending money.
Connectionists tend to value togetherness, are social and extraverted, and can’t imagine why anyone would ever want to be alone during the holidays. They enjoy getting together with family and friends, but can also feel a sense of obligation to do so, and may end up spending time with people they don’t necessarily like or get along with.
What is a holiday personality?
“Our ‘holiday personality’ comprises our values and beliefs about the holidays, celebrations in general, the role of tradition in our lives, as well as our relationships and sense of connection with others,” Dattilo told Healthline.
She said the beliefs you hold, whether you are aware of them or not, influence your attitude, approach, and choices. Beliefs are informed and influenced by what you are taught, directly or indirectly by family, society, community, friends, and through lived experiences.
Deborah Serani, PsyD, psychologist and professor at Adelphi University, agreed, noting that your attitudes and well-being are deeply connected to your personality.
She said the standard “Big Five” model of personality consists of the following:
- openness to experience
“Different facets of these subtypes will dovetail better with holiday demands, high octane preparations, and social festivities better than others,” Serani told Healthline.
However, Dattilo added that no matter your personality, your beliefs and values can change over time, “and that we have a choice in what we believe when it comes to anything, including the holiday season.”
Why are the holidays fun for some and stressful for others?
According to a November 2021 poll by the American Psychiatric Association, Americans are 5 times more likely to say their level of stress increases rather than decreases during the holidays.
For 2021, people are most concerned about the following:
- missing family members (47 percent)
- affording gifts (46 percent)
- finding gifts (40 percent)
- developing COVID-19 during gatherings (38 percent)
“Many people who are extroverted, highly social, and open to experiences tend to find the holidays fun and exciting, while people who are more introverted may find it a challenge to move through the rigors of the holiday season,” said Serani.
“If you love going, being, doing, and connecting, you’ll be filled with jolly. However, if you’re more introverted, you will need a lot of time to rest, recharge, and refuel to keep up with social events and avoid the Humbug feelings,” she said.
While not everyone will have the same reaction to the holiday season, Dr. Namrata Shah, staff psychiatrist at Talkiatry, said it’s typical to fluctuate between emotional states from stress and sadness to excitement and hope.
“It is important to remember that no matter what emotion you are on the spectrum with the holidays, always take time for yourself and set boundaries if needed,” Shah told Healthline.
Carrying on and letting go of holiday traditions
How you feel about traditions can play a part in your holiday personality.
“Traditions can anchor us and provide a sense of familiarity and predictability, both of which have been in short supply over the past year and a half,” Dattilo said.
While traditions might give you something to look forward to, like many things, they occasionally need a reboot or even replacing.
“Letting go of old traditions doesn’t have to be sad or somber. It can provide an opportunity to clarify your values and create new traditions that are in better alignment with those,” said Dattilo.
This is especially true if honoring old traditions and family customs is difficult or painful, said Serani.
And while holiday traditions change for numerous reasons, Shah said it doesn’t have to be an out-with-the-old and in-with-the-new mentality. “[You] can make new memories while remembering your old memories fondly,” she said.
If you are looking to create new traditions that matter most to you, Dattilo says consider the following:
Prioritize and pace yourself
Determine what is most important about the holidays and traditions for you and your loved ones. Then focus on a few by prioritizing your resources, including time, effort, energy, and emotion.
“Some of us will love the gift-giving, many will focus, instead, on the bonds we have with loved ones, while others find great spirituality and faith in traditions,” said Serani. “There’s room enough for all the different ways to celebrate the holidays.”
Participating in a tradition just because you always have can feel hollow, forced, and inauthentic, said Dattilo.
“It may also leave you feeling guilty and disappointed instead of enthusiastic and uplifted,” she said.
If this is your case, Shah recommends finding gratitude in traditions you find the most enjoyable.
Aim for authentic (not performative) celebrations
Traditions don’t have to be extravagant. Rather, they can be simple.
“Remember that even little bursts of joy or delight scattered throughout the day can help us maintain a positive mood and outlook,” said Dattilo. “It’s important for people to not minimize the ‘little things’ because the brain doesn’t actually know the difference between the big things and the little things, and there are far more moments of joy than we think.”
Your holiday personality is comprised of your values and beliefs about the holidays, celebrations in general, the role of tradition in your life, as well as your relationships and sense of connection with others.
There are three basic “holiday personality” types.
- Traditionalists, who tend to value familiarity, routine, and predictability around the holidays.
- Celebrationists, who tend to value spontaneity, people-pleasing, gift-giving, and merriment.
- Connectionists, who tend to value togetherness, are social and extraverted, and can’t imagine why anyone would ever want to be alone during the holidays.
Knowing your ‘holiday personality,’ or what it is you value most about the holidays, can help you be more authentic and intentional in how or with whom you choose to spend time during the season.