It’s that time of year again — pumpkin spice lattes in every cafe, Christmas decor filling store shelves, and mass amounts of turkey and ham packaged for holiday dinners. For many, the holiday season is a time of joy and togetherness, a time of tradition and giving.
It can also be a time of year with added layers of stress.
For vegans, the holidays can be especially tough and full of probing questions from family and friends, sadness for the animals sacrificed in the name of tradition, and awkward social gatherings in which you decline people’s cooking.
I get it, I’ve been there.
But over the years, the holidays have gotten easier. I’ve come to realize 3 things:
- The questions will never end, so try turning the defense off and the education on when answering them.
- It’s best to bring your own dish or eat beforehand.
- Try not to take things so personally at the dinner table and find ways to give back instead.
Are you a newbie starting to dabble in the world of veganism?
Are you a veteran looking for some new tips to make your holiday season more bearable, or even enjoyable?
Wherever you are on your journey, the following tips will help make the coming months a little brighter.
3 top tips for slaying the holidays as a vegan and making it look easy:
1. Communication about your vegan lifestyle is key
Preparing for family gatherings around the holidays can often feel like preparing for an interview.
But open and honest communication with family and friends before a holiday event is key in reducing feelings of stress and overwhelm.
Make a plan to have a conversation with the host of your family or friend gathering prior to the event to let them know that your vegan lifestyle is an important part of who you are and not a diet fad you’ve decided to try for a few months.
Creating an opportunity to answer any questions they may have ahead of time can help take the spotlight off of you on the day of the holiday festivities.
But always prepare yourself for questions from distant relatives or anyone who may not be in your immediate circle. A few questions you encounter might be:
- Where do you get your protein from?
- How in the world did you ever give up cheese?
- What do you eat besides kale?
- Isn’t eating animals just part of the circle of life?
…just to name a few.
While it’s hard to not go into defense mode, remember that at one point in your life prior to becoming vegan, you had the same questions. I’ve found it helpful to stick to the facts when educating others on a vegan lifestyle.
You’ve done the research to understand the impact of a vegan lifestyle — you got this!
If the facts don’t work and you begin to feel attacked for your choices, stand firm in your values and direct the conversation elsewhere. My go-to interrogation stopper goes something like this, “At the end of the day, Uncle Steve, how does my choice to go vegan affect your life?”
You can even go a step further and suggest some helpful documentaries they could check out if they have any further questions. I’ve included a list of them here:
Also, if you’re well versed in vegan brands and products, try gifting some of your favorites on Christmas. There’s nothing more satisfying than introducing someone to a vegan brand and having them ask where they can get more. It’s a simple and meaningful way to educate others on living a plant-based lifestyle.
Being vegan is at the core of who you are and with time, the ones closest to you will begin to appreciate your values and help to create a safe space for you around the holidays.
2. Create your own vegan holiday recipes
It’s time to get in the kitchen and whip up some of that vegan goodness.
You don’t have to be a 5-star chef to whip up a good vegan meal around the holidays. In fact, there are some really great recipes out there to get you started that will have your family and friends wondering how in the heck is it vegan?!
Pro-tip: Don’t even tell anyone it’s vegan until they are raving about how great it is mid-bite!
Some staple vegetables found in your kitchen can be used to create delicious and easy side dishes by replacing the real butter and milk with a plant-based version such as Earth Balance for butter and almond milk.
Try making a side of balsamic glazed brussel sprouts or sweet potatoes to start. These easy side dishes will leave you feeling less intimidated and give you the confidence to try more complex recipes down the road.
However, if you are really feeling the holiday spirit and want to get in the kitchen and go HAM — not literally — but have never cooked an entirely vegan Thanksgiving dinner, I’m here to tell you that there’s no better time than the present to learn!
And if you’re looking for a little inspiration, Minimalist Baker happens to be one of my favorite go-to’s. Check out these amazing vegan thanksgiving recipes that will not disappoint even the most committed meat-eater. Bonus – they can be used as vegan Christmas recipes too.
Try tweaking them to your liking and you never know what you might create.
There are also a TON of brands out there that offer alternatives to the traditional Thanksgiving turkey or ham if that is your jam at the holidays. I’ve included a list of vegan holiday roasts to try here:
Also, if you were a die-hard eggnog drinker in your past life, check out Calif Farms vegan nog and their other holiday flavors as a replacement to really get in the holiday spirit.
Lastly, always let friends and family know if you plan to bring a dish to the gathering and bring enough goodness to share.
Let go and have a little fun with your vegan holiday dishes, you’ll be surprised at how many people will be asking you for the recipe by the end of the evening!
Oh, and if you really want to improve your cooking skills, you could always take an online vegan cooking course.
3. Vegan volunteer work and donations
There’s no better way to reduce stress around the holidays than to give back to some amazing vegan organizations.
The holiday season is a time of giving. And for vegans, those in need also include the animals suffering in the name of tradition. It’s estimated that 45 million turkeys are killed each year for Thanksgiving feasts alone.
Fortunately, there are some great organizations out there that are looking to change this.
Farm Sanctuary is a prime example. At Thanksgiving, they provide people with a way to symbolically adopt a turkey or sponsor a whole flock of turkeys starting at $35. The website offers bio’s on each member of the flock and their rescue stories. This is an easy and cost-effective way to make a difference and offer support.
Mercy For Animals is another great resource for donating and they provide a lot of insightful information through their newsletters and website. By donating to this organization, you are helping fund undercover animal farming investigations and contributing to policy change and reform. Mercy For Animals has helped put laws and policies in place to protect factory farmed animals, and their dedication to this mission is only gaining momentum.
The work to create a world where animal agriculture is obsolete is on-going. And while it may seem that not much has changed, there are many individuals and organizations committed to the mission.
Also, when family and friends ask you what you want for Christmas this year, why not ask them to make vegan holiday donations on your behalf?
Another great way to feel connected to others that share your values during the holiday season is to network within Facebook groups. There are many vegan groups that offer a plethora of resources and information – from local sanctuaries that may need volunteers, to impressive holiday recipes.
Feel good being vegan this holiday season
Your mission to make a difference is especially important around the holidays and does not go unnoticed.
While Thanksgiving and Christmas can feel overwhelming and tend to place your vegan lifestyle in the spotlight for all to see, it can also be the best time of year to really encourage change with your friends, family, and even strangers.
Between having strong and educated answers to their questions and your delicious vegan recipes made with love, it’s a time to plant seeds within their hearts and minds.
Tis the season of giving and what better way to give back to the animals, the environment, and the health & well-being of others than to live strongly in your vegan values and continue to advocate for a lifestyle full of compassion?
HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM ONE VEGAN TO ANOTHER!
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Jillian is a Portland-based writer whose vegan journey began back in 2013 on the way to a Friendsgiving, while listening to a speech by activist Gary Yourofsky it became clear to her that she could no longer contribute to such an inhumane industry. Her love for ALL animals was too strong. Ever since then, she's been devoted to spreading the message of veganism and it's importance to whoever will take the time to listen. She founded her copywriting business this year to help other vegan business owners on their mission of compassion as well. Writing has always been her passion and she is grateful for the opportunity to combine both her love of words and her love for animals and our environment.