Surviving the Holidays

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Surviving the Holidays

The holiday season is here. As the only vegan in my family (or extended family) I know I am not alone when I talk about the feeling of impending doom that creeps in this time of year at the thought of another family gathering around the dinner table. Ok, perhaps I am exaggerating a little—perhaps doom isn’t the right word. But it can be very difficult for many vegans when you feel like the entire dinner table is monitoring your plate, so I thought I would share with you a few ideas that I have come across and practiced over the years that might help ease the feelings of anxiety.

1. Bring a food item that you can share. This is especially helpful when it is your very first holiday as a vegan. It is a non-confrontational way to introduce veganism to your family and friends and also to ensure that there is something that you know you will be able to eat and enjoy (just try to make sure that it isn’t something too exotic so that others will want to try it). If you are bringing a bottle of wine bring a Kosher bottle as they are all vegan (they are easy to find in most liquor stores all in one section).

2. Offer vegan cookbooks as gifts before the holiday season. This will give family and friends vegan cooking ideas and relieve part of their anxiety of what they can feed you. Most books have excellent prologues explaining the vegan lifestyle which can clarify some of the questions non-vegans may have that they may be too embarrassed to ask or discuss with you such as: “Where do you get your protein?” and “What do you eat?”.

3. Ask that the turkey not be carved at the dinner table. As simple as this sounds, it can have an enormous impact on your emotional state at the dinner table. I stumbled upon this one year when we were doing a sort of potluck dinner and the turkey arrived “pre-cut”. It was a relief for me not to have the carcass of a bird I mourned for sitting in front of me when I was expected to be jovial.

4. Be patient with others and allow them time to understand your new set of values. Recognize that they may have anxieties about what they can feed you and also that you may be judging their food choices. Remember that it took time for you to make the transition into veganism so do allow some time for friends and family to adjust to your new lifestyle. This does not mean however that it is ok for them to degrade you for your choices; if you are uncomfortable discussing your lifestyle that you politely request a change of topic. Although some people enjoy discussing the reasons why they have become vegan, others may not feel the same way and it is important that this be respected.

5. Be true to yourself. If you are hosting the holiday dinner feel free to make it vegan; don’t feel pressured into making non-vegan food. If you are not hosting the meal and you feel that attending the holiday dinner will be violating your convictions then let yourself not attend. Try to do so in the most respectful way as possible as it may be extremely hurtful to your friends and family as it may seem as a form of personal rejection.

6. Enjoy your time with family. For many, myself included a large part of the holidays are about taking the time to spend with friends and family. Focusing too much on what others are eating can be very emotionally draining. Be positive and be a shining example of how expanding your circle of compassion to both animals and humans alike looks good on you.

The great humanitarian Albert Schweitzer wrote, “The thinking [person] must oppose all cruel customs, no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo. When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another.”



November 19, 2010 at 11:25 pm

Great post! Very useful.

Alison C.

November 20, 2010 at 1:31 am

Willow – great commentary and advice! I love love love the Albert Schweitzer quote you so fittingly ended the post with.


November 20, 2010 at 11:41 am

Thank you! :]

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