There’s no doubt that holidays are difficult for vegans living in a non-vegan world. Spending time with family is a wonderful thing … watching them devour animals, not so much. Being the “vegan in the room” creates a lot of pressure. Folks are immediately made to feel uncomfortable for consuming meat in front of you, whether you intend for them to feel that way or not. You might being cross-examined for your decision to live the vegan lifestyle. Or, you might feel powerless and trapped amidst carnist conversations about how much everyone just loves eating animals. It’s rough.
We could all use a little extra support this time of year. So here are some tips for making it out of this holiday season alive and well!
1 | Create your vegan support group
Whether your support group is an online vegan community or a few close vegan confidants, surviving the holidays will be much more bearable when there are other vegans who share your pain. If they’re not in the room with you at family gatherings, you’ll have an easier time keeping the carnist-vegan peace knowing you can vent to and sympathize with your friends as soon as you get home! And if your support group isn’t strong (and even if it is), be sure to do some self-care this time of year!
For Baltimore Vegans, I highly recommend participating in Baltimore Vegan Drinks events. This is how I’ve made nearly all of my vegan friends! Vegan Drinks events also take place in cities nationwide.
2 | Be prepared for the interrogation
There’s almost no avoiding it. If you’re sharing your holiday meal with non-vegans, you can count on them bringing up the fact that you’re not conforming to the norm. Even if they’ve asked you this hundreds of times before, they’re sure to inquire yet again, “but why?”
Be prepared with your response — whether you decide to engage or not. (Because, seriously, do they want to hear about the gruesome violence animals endure while they have one in their mouth!? Probably not.) You can politely say, “if you’re truly interested, perhaps we can have a conversation after dinner.” Alternatively, you might want to take advantage of the opportunity when everyone at the table will be attentively waiting to hear your answer. Just don’t let yourself be caught off-guard!
3 | Make everyone jealous and amazed about your delicious vegan food
Some families are more than happy to help veganize traditional dishes. Others, not so much. Either way, you’ll most certainly want to have a full plate since everyone else will. After all, we don’t want folks thinking we just eat rabbit food, or that our lifestyle is limiting. I typically make every. single. dish. vegan. It’s a lot of work, but I love to show my family that we don’t have to sacrifice our traditions when we go vegan. And we don’t want to give the impression that vegan food is different. Which brings me to…
4 | Don’t “other” yourself
I’ve learned this the hard way, and it may be too difficult for me to come back from at this point. When I make all the delicious vegan food for the holidays, I have typically created little label cards. This emphasizes that there’s the “normal” green bean casserole, and then there’s the vegan green bean casserole. When given the option, most non-vegans go for the “normal” option. I’ve been my own worst enemy in that I’ve reinforced that my food is different. If you’re bringing food, be sure to mingle it into the spread, and if you label it, you don’t have to include the vegan label. After all, it’s just food.
5 | Live extra compassionately
Sheesh, the holidays sure do take an emotional toll on us. Millions of animals are killed just for this one meal! Millions! I think one estimate put it at almost 50 million! What can we do about it? It’s easy to feel helpless, but we mustn’t let our non-vegan peers forget that we all play a role in shaping our world, and we all have a choice to either support violence towards animals, or be a part of changing the status quo. I typically will attend Thanksgiving with the Turkeys events at animal sanctuaries, adopt a turkey at a sanctuary, and spend a lot of time at vegan events. And you know I’m all about sharing pictures and stories on social media so my friends and family can see there’s an alternative to the systemic violence of animal agriculture. When we live by example, others will take notice.
In short. . .
There are many ways to care for ourselves and the animals around the holidays. Here, we’ve taken a look at five very basic tips. But there’s much we can do! I’d love to hear your own tips and suggestions. What have you found effective?
UPDATE: as I publish this piece, I am noticing that my favorite vegan podcast just released their latest episode with nearly the same title! Check out episode 098 from Vegan Warrior Princesses Attack!