How to ace the holiday season as a vegan

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Elena Orde’s top tips for sharing the celebrations with non-vegans.

The holidays are a time for enjoying life with our strange and wonderful families and friends. This time of year inspires a whole host of emotions, which could include – but are not limited to – excitement, dread, joy and anxiety. Those who are sharing the celebrations with non-vegans have another dimension to consider – fielding questions about their dietary and lifestyle choices. In preparation for the upcoming jollifications (yes that’s a real word), I have put together some tips to make the experience as stress-free as possible.

Make your food amazingA Tofurky roast

Let’s not pretend that the food doesn’t account for 90% of our excitement in the lead-up to the holiday season. If you’re going to be dining around non-vegans, this is your chance to show that we don’t miss out on anything in the food department. If you’re into cooking then this is the perfect excuse to spend a few hours drooling over vegan blogs and recipe books. Get bookmarking and, if you’re really looking to impress, plan a trial-run before the big day.

If you’re less of a whizz in the kitchen, don’t panic – there’s still time to order something from specialist vegan shops or vegan-friendly supermarkets. If you’re into roasts, some supermarkets offer cheap own brand versions in the freezer free from section, while Vegusto, Fry’s and Tofurky can help provide something fancier. Go all out and wrap the roast in ready-made puff pastry with a layer of cranberry sauce in between and voilà – a fantastic festive centrepiece that tastes delicious yet could easily be assembled by a four year old. Remember, the more there is to go around the better: a bigger dish will help your meal seem more of a showstopper, while providing extra portions for others to try. Not to mention the delights of spending the next few days eating leftovers.

Handling comments

If you’re anything like me, one thoughtless joke or poorly phrased comment from someone else can really put a downer on a meal. There’s nothing worse than having your appetite ruined on a day which is supposed to be about eating yourself into a food-coma (as well as love and family, etc.). If you’re concerned that your vegan lifestyle may spark issues or debates among relatives, it’s a good idea to think about how best to react to diffuse any such situations. 

Remember that you don’t ever need to explain your decisions to others if you don’t want to – especially not at the dinner table. This isn’t the time or place to be drawn into a debate. That’s not to say that you can’t be assertive, and make it clear that you are confident in your decisions. If someone’s genuinely interested in why you’re vegan, you can always have a chat with them later on. For more tips, check out our social page.

Feeling good in yourself

Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur

I know that, come Christmas day, I’m not going to enjoy sharing the table with a beautiful bird who died for the celebrations. This side of things will always be difficult if you’re not lucky enough to be part of an all-vegan group. However, you can make it easier by focusing on enjoying your food and the fact that no one suffered to create it. It could also be helpful to make some practical decisions in the lead-up to the day, such as ensuring beforehand that you’ll be seated at the other end of the table to any animal products. 

You can also enjoy giving your family vegan-friendly gifts. Vegan chocolate, sweets, cosmetics, candles, clothing and bath treats will always go down well, and you’ll be able to support some of your favourite companies. Check out our Trademark search and our shop for more gift options, or get creative and have a go at making gifts yourself.

Another idea is to take part in an adopt-a-turkey scheme, such as the one set up by Farm Sanctuary. You’ll be sent updates and pictures from your new friend, which is a great and tangible way to recognise the impact we as individuals are able to have on other animals. Catskill Animal Sanctuary run a similar scheme, and you can read their blog here where they discuss the happy lives animals like Henrietta the turkey now lead after rescue.

Here’s an early festive present for you: a video from Farm Sanctuary in which the turkeys are made guest of honours at their own Thanksgiving feast … does the way the turkeys grab food off the plates remind anyone else of their own family at this time of year?!

By Elena Orde

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