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Overcoming Holiday Gift Anxiety: What If It’s Not Vegan? by Carmella Lanni-Giardina, VLCE

vegan gift

Source: Pixabay

‘Tis the season to spread joy, love and compassion. The holidays can be the “most wonderful time of the year,” but they can also be stressful, especially when it comes to gift giving. How do vegans overcome gift anxiety during this time of the year?

“Gift anxiety?” you ask. It may not be a formal diagnosis but it does exist. Have you ever experienced any of the following:

  • The strive for present perfection
  • The fear of the unknown behind the wrapping paper
  • The struggle to explain what veganism is to your Aunt Janie at the holiday dinner table?

There are a lot of emotions felt during this time of the year. For many, it’s based in wanting everyone around us to be happy.

There’s an element of surprise that’s quite exciting. The expression on someone’s face when you’ve given or received the one special gift can be memorable. It can make the holidays even more special.


Gift anxiety isn’t a “vegan thing.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve received my share of “bad” gifts, even in the pre-vegan days, and I’m sure someone will say I’ve given a dud or two in my life. What I’ve learned is that it’s all about how you handle the situation to make things comfortable for everyone.

I’d like to think people generally mean well when giving and receiving gifts. Whether it comes with a statement or is a simple sign of appreciation, most people (hopefully) are not trying to be malicious.

Tips to handle the non-vegan gift:

  1. Be honest, gentle, and thankful: It’s not the time to make someone feel bad about giving the “wrong” gift. Appreciate the thought and explain why the gift is not for you. This can be an opportunity to let someone get to know you better and learn about veganism.
  2. Pay it forward: Turn that gift into an act of kindness. If the gift can be returned, ask that the monetary value of the gift be donated to your favorite charity. If not, ask if they can give the gift to someone else who could use it. If money is tight, ask they do an act of kindness for someone else as an exchange.
  3. Gift exchange: Whether it’s “Secret Santa” or a “Yankee Swap,” organize a party to exchange gifts. Turn it into a D-I-Y party, where people give handmade gifts from food to fashion. If you set the rules, this can be a 100% cruelty-free fun time!Bonus tip: If you can set a gift exchange online, consider a free service like Elfster, which allows participants to anonymously ask questions and get gift ideas.


  4. Make a wish (list)! Give your loved ones some ideas of what you’d like as a gift and where they can find them. Many online stores allow you to email your lists with photos.Bonus tip: Into social media? Pinterest can be your best friend. Create a holiday wish list board to give people ideas of what you like.
  5. Get the group involved: Group gifts, especially at the office, can be tough. If the group has an idea for a gift that’s not vegan, offer an alternative that’s similar in price and quality.

Yes, the holidays can be emotional. Yes, they can be stressful. No, it doesn’t have to be more so because we’ve chosen a vegan lifestyle. Whether we’re giving or receiving, it’s always good to be reminded of the thought, compassion, and care taken in sharing with others.

Veganism is really for everyone. We come into it at our own pace and time. The holidays can be a great time to spark someone’s interest. Use your gift to open the door and start a conversation with kindness and love.

carmellaCarmella Lanni-Giardina, VLCE is one-half of the blog team, The Food Duo, and co-hosts #VeganFoodChat on Twitter. She is also co-owner of V Marks the Shop, an all-vegan convenience store, coming soon to Philadelphia, PA, and online. She loves technology as much as vegan cupcakes. Carmella can be found in coffee shops, drinking tea and writing on IT, marketing, and all things vegan.


  1. Adrienne Borgersen says:

    Great ideas! We do Secret Santa in my family. I have to be very specific with my family and I’ve learned not to ask for anything that might be made with an animal product. Elfster sounds like it will be a big help.
    As for gifts from friends or colleagues, I don’t know if I could outright refuse their non vegan gift. I might not use it, or give it away, down the road. Maybe I’d call them the next day, or tell them later, in private. But you make some good suggestions that I will consider. Thank you!

    • Hi Adrienne and thanks! Gift giving can be emotional. I used to just ask for gift cards until a relative said that I was taking the fun out of the holidays. I felt I was making things easier for them. I learned that having the conversations, when the time is right, can make a world of difference. Some think veganism is “weird” and get a bit lost as to what vegans like. Showing that we’re not so different can give them some insights on who we are and what veganism involves.

    • Friends and colleagues should already know you are vegan before the holidays come so they know what and what not to get you. Being vegan is nothing to be ashamed of or should be kept secret, and they are bound to ask questions and find out you being vegan anyway. That way they hopefully won’t get a non-vegan gift or none at all. I’d rather have no gifts just to be animal free safe and also because I’d rather them donate to the sanctuaries I volunteer at instead.