Even though the holidays are a time for joyful celebration and warm exchanges of well-meaning wishes between dear family and friends, it can also be stressful. Between cleaning the house in preparation for Aunt Mary’s critical eye and preparing a feast that can accommodate Grandma’s type II diabetes and Uncle Bob’s raging appetite, it can feel daunting to try to fit in our ethical choices into this madness even as a seasoned vegan.
Whether you come from a family of hunters or self-confessed flexitarians, odds are that you will probably encounter some raised eyebrows or be the target of some classic “hippy vegan” jokes.
However, there is no need to be stressed about being your vegan self this holiday season. Here are five tips that will help you do just that.
1. Get your own food and/or call the host in advance
This may seem like a lot of preparation but I promise you, you will not regret it. If you are not the greatest cook, consider looking up recipe books or even vegan caterers in your area. Food is a focal point of the holiday celebrations, having your own feast to eat will decrease your stress immensely.
If you are worried about offending your host by bringing your own food, consider calling in advance to make it known. Chances are your host will appreciate the extra food and not having the “burden” of feeding a vegan.
2. Don’t focus on the food
Let us be real, it sometimes feels like the whole point of the holidays is to eat until people don’t fit in their pants anymore. Everyone looks forward to that table full of mash, gravy and obviously that giant turkey in the middle.
Having to sit down surrounded with all that food that we don’t consider food at all is definitely worthy of cringe. However, unless we host all the gatherings this holiday season, we have to deal.
Focusing on the horrific mental images of those poor animals’ lives and their senseless deaths will not bring them back. Their cut up body parts will still be on the dinner table when you open your eyes.
Do yourself a favor and bring your focus away from the food. Easier said than done, I know.
Now is the time to offer to your family a taste testing of all the delicious vegan food you brought.
3. Don’t be afraid to be yourself
The most stressful part of all family gatherings is definitely the social aspect. Besides dodging questions about your love life and your career path, you now have to face inquiries about your “weird” diet.
I know it may be scary but being true to yourself will make your life easier.
It may be tempting to forego your ethical beliefs just for a night. Please don’t.
Be ready to decline food offered to you. It is embarrassing at first but you are entitled to decide what you put in your mouth. Decide on some simple ways of respectfully refusing in advance and practice saying them before going to a gathering. My go-to is simply “No thank you, I don’t eat animal products anymore. It looks good though”
Find what works for you. Remember the key point is being gentle in your approach.
4. Don’t let others bring you down
It is impossible to know in advance how your family will react to your vegan lifestyle. I am still wondering, “What will they say this year?”
However, it is possible to decide that you will not let any comment make you mad or sad.
It is important to be compassionate and remember that most of the comments come from genuine ignorance.
Be your happy self and laugh off the jokes. Stay calm and show that you are not bothered. Eventually things will calm down and everyone will go back to caring about what is on their plates vs. what is on yours.
5. Focus on the good times
Make an effort to connect with the loved ones you do not see often. Participate in conversations and games. You do not have to set yourself apart just because you are “the vegan” of the family. These people love you no matter what. Don’t focus on their actions that you disagree with.
Remember the whole point of the holidays; getting together with your loved ones to have a good time and be merry!
I hope that these five simple tips helped you feel more confident about all the family gatherings you will be facing soon this holiday season.