Holidays are all about celebration, spending time with family and friends, letting loose, relaxation and lots of laughs.
Don’t forget what it’s all about!
Do you remember that Christmas morning feeling you used to get as a kid? Don’t squash that feeling. Any ounce of excitement you have for the holidays, let it thrive!
That said, being vegan can bring in a new set of dynamics when it comes to holiday dinners. As you made the transition to become vegan, you’ve probably seen life-changing things you simply can’t un-see, and this in turn has changed your values as person. As much as you’re dreading that turkey centerpiece at the dinner party coming up, you still have to remember that the transformation you’ve personally experienced most likely hasn’t magically spread to those around you.
So, here are a few things to think of as you head into the festivities:
□ You weren’t always vegan (most likely).
□ As compassionate, loving and amazing your non-vegan family and friends are, it’s unfair to expect them to immediately understand your seemingly drastic new habits of avoiding the turkey, steak or pork they’ve worked tirelessly over.
□ It’s a touchy subject for family members (especially parents) because food is emotional; it’s the language of love. Food is how your parents have shown their love for you since you came into this world. Love, in the way of putting food on the table that, to their best knowledge, would help you grow to be healthy, happy and thriving.
□ They may understandably make a connection that if we reject the food that they’ve been feeding us our whole life, then we are rejecting them personally. The Holidays are a good time to show that you’re most definitely not rejecting them personally at all! You are now simply embracing your own newfound realization and values, but that doesn’t take away from how much you love them, and they how much they love you.
□ It’s important to emphasize that this decision has nothing to do with them, and that you appreciate (immensely) the upbringing they gave you and the love they have for you.
□ Remember the main underlying reason for veganism: Compassion toward all beings, and this includes humans (especially family)!
□ Meet them where they are.
– Again, realize that you weren’t always vegan and that eating animal products was the norm for most of your life. Be patient and don’t expect them to understand at this moment, that direct connection to the animal on the plate that you have recently made.
□ Don’t argue, but inspire!
-The holidays are not the best time to launch into speeches about nutrition science, but that still doesn’t mean it should stop you from sharing the personal benefits you have been experiencing from eating this way.
Dinner parties: there are 2 ways to go about it:
1. Communicate with them about ‘your why’ beforehand:
If you’re close to the family you’re going for dinner with, just be upfront and honest. Let them know that you’re vegan for you because of the connection you’ve recently made to the ‘why’ behind it all, and be clear that it’s not a personal attack on them (or your upbringing) AT ALL.
~ Say this: ‘This year, would it be possible to use vegan butter instead in the sides? And I’d be super happy to bring a vegan main alternative’ (with excitement).
~ Say this: ‘This may seem strange to you, because I know it was strange to me before going vegan, but I just don’t see animals as food any more. I have made a life changing connection that these farm animals simply have the same deep desire to live out their lives just like my/a dog does, so I just can’t bring myself to eat them anymore.’
As long as you are clear about the fact that you’re strongly connected to the reasons behind veganism (to improve your health, for the environment, and especially for the animals), and that it has nothing to do with them personally, hopefully they will understand, at least for the time being.
2. Come as you are, but don’t expect them to know what vegan means to you
□ Avoid being a preachy vegan. Explain to them lightly what veganism means to you, without putting their values down
□ During the dinner, if you’re questioned about it, keep your answers short on the negative aspects of eating animals, and quickly focus and end on the personal positive benefits you’ve experienced. If the convo gets too in-depth, just say we can chat about it after dinner, but I’d love to hear more about… the wine (or something)!:
□ Example answers:
– ‘I switched so I could eat more, and weigh less because I’m a total foodie’
– ‘I didn’t enjoy animal products anymore after some documentaries I watched, and I just love vegan food! Especially cashew cheese and maple tempeh….! Have you tried _ _ _ _’? (some kind of vegan deliciousness)
□ These answers avoid the ‘my way is better than yours’ feeling they may feel if you go on and on about the documentaries you’ve watched and research you’ve done… You’re not there to make them vegan overnight. That’s something that may come in time if you are approachable, positive and fun to talk with.
□ Keep it short, and save the deeper reasoning for after dinner talk if they’re really interested, instead of at the dinner table over plated animal products (unless you’re going for awkward-central).
□ After dinner when you get home, or the next day, send them links if they were genuinely curious. This is a good one to start with: https://hookedonplants.ca/why-vegan/
□ Relax and be flexible, light and accommodating
-This might mean you’ll have to live off of salad, crackers, antipasto and sides for the night. But, it’s important to remember why you’re there: for quality time, love and having fun.
□ Bring Food
-As always, the best way to share the love, enjoy the food, and show how delicious vegan food can be, is to cook and bring some delicious dishes with you to share with everyone. Depending on the holiday, you can easily find a plant-based version of nearly every holiday dish. Scroll through here for some great main, side and dessert Holiday options: https://hookedonplants.ca/category/holidays/
□ Most importantly, remember to be positive, happy and
understanding. No one likes a preachy, over the top, person who puts them down or makes them feel uncomfortable. During holiday dinners is the time to laugh some things off, subtly change the topic from the more serious questions, and truly enjoy the company of each other. Just remember that compassion doesn’t stop at the animals, and if you’re polite, awesome, approachable and positive, it might just spark a some interest from those around you and who knows, maybe they’ll curiously come to you on their own time in the near future
Julia Murray is:
□ a vegan blogger sharing weekly recipes (www.hookedonplants.ca)
□ a Registered Holistic Nutritionist
□ a certified plant-based & raw food chef
□ an Olympian
□ a cereal company owner
□ a Vegan Lifestyle Coach & Educator through Main Street Vegan Academy
□ named one of Canada’s top 10 vegan athletes
□ E-Book Author (out now!): ‘Hooked on Plants for a week’
Follow her here: @hookedonplants @juliamurrayski
Her vegan dog: @zaktherescuedog