"To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering." -Friedrich Nietzsche
During that first year after going vegan I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But, day-by-day, I saw myself getting better at understanding and living plant-based. Which is why I thought Thanksgiving and Christmas would be like just another day.
Boy was I wrong.
Thanksgiving was a completely different beast altogether. I always knew that it was a celebration of the things you’re thankful for – and, like everybody else, I valued that part of it the most. But after that, especially as a vegan, it completely lost me. No longer was it ideal to sit around a table staring at a dead bird, flanked by so many other things I wouldn’t dare ever eat again. As well as stuff myself for the sake of there being food.
And Christmas wasn’t much different. It was basically the same food and family – only surrounded by loads of manhandled wrapping paper.
So, after that first holiday season as a vegan, I seriously wondered what in the hell was I going to do on the next one going forward. I tried spending that next holiday season alone, but being away from family and loved ones on major holidays, quite frankly, sucked. It seemed like every commercial or ad was trying to make me feel lonely. So after some thought on the subject, I came to the conclusion that I either had to smarten up or suffer – plain and simple. I decided to make a list of all the ways that could make Thanksgiving, as a vegan, enjoyable. A way so it wouldn’t leave me needing to be lobotomized right after. And now they’re yours to use too. Use them like the force and enjoy a new reason to actually have a happy holiday season.
Oh, and before we get to it, we created a What To Do After What The Health Ebook just for you, because we’re cool like that!
1. Call Before You Text
Normally, being in a non-vegan eating situation for a few hours is fairly tolerable. But, Thanksgiving and Christmas are entirely different. We’re talking hours and hours of sitting around, stuffing your face, napping, watching crappy football games – and then doing it all over again later that same day. It’s like a gluttonous groundhog day. So now, I call my hosts before and let them know about my wants and needs. It may sound diva-ish on a Mariah Carey like level, but gone are one on one conversations that can be taken out of context – especially when it comes to texting. It can also give people an insight and understanding they would have never had had you not told them. And you’ll find out that if they really want you around. Because they’ll have no problems making a few food alterations for you when they’re already preparing enough food for a small army.
No matter what your host told you about them supplying plenty of vegan options for you, what does it hurt to bring a few of your own? Yeah, they might initially side-eye you a bit for not following their directions, but as another wise man once said, it’s better to apologize than ask for permission. When you bring your own food you can take control of the kind of food you eat and how much of it, since yours will be labeled the ‘taboo vegan dishes’. But don’t completely take my word as gospel because last Thanksgiving, I took my favorite lentils dish and it was greedily scarfed up by my relatives and their unending holiday appetites.
3. Leave Your Signs At Home
I’m for activism as much as the next person, because I do it. But activism, just like anything else, has to be calculated to be as effective as it can possibly be. Sitting around a holiday table with friends and family is not the place for informing people of the world’s horrors. And the same way most business deals are done outside of business hours is the same way your activism should be saved for the right situations for maximum effectiveness.
4. Leave Your Judgment At Home With Your Signs
I was never a fan of eating turkey or ham, but I was damn sure complicit in it as I ate other ‘food’ I never would now. Remember, unless you were raised vegan from birth, and never swayed, you were once in the same seat your family and friends are in now. Think about how you would have responded to being, or feeling, attacked. Would you have listened intently and changed that day? Or just labeled them annoying, judgmental pricks and vowed never to be like them? If you’re the latter, then just be cool about it. From experience, just being cool about it intrigues people and gets them wanting to know more about why you’re vegan. Just like a vampire can only come inside of a home they’re invited to is the same way people will only listen to something that they’re interested in knowing.
5. Give Non-vegan Vegan Gifts
Giving your friends and family ‘official vegan gifts’ or something proclaiming veganism just isn’t a good idea. They’ll go over about as well as those dress socks and suspenders your aunts gifts you every year. Instead, just give non-vegan vegan gifts. There are plenty of things out there that are accidentally vegan that you don’t give. Gifts that vegan and non-vegan alike use daily. Books, art, music, etc – and that way, everyone’s happy without challenging anyone else's believes at an inopportune time.
6. Change The Angle
I’m not talking about the angle of the conversation, or even the TV so you can see your favorite team play – I’m talking about the angle of that dead bird or pig (ham). I know it sounds kind of nuts, but hear me out. A Thanksgiving and Christmas table has so much food on it that asking your host to make a small change to the angle can pretty easily make the bird not as viewable. Or at least they can change the position so that disgusting hole of a turkey isn’t staring you directly in the face.
7. Don’t Let Your Crazy Uncle Get To You
We all have that crazy uncle that’s never amounted to much with his life, yet he’s the loudest person at the table – especially when the eggnog starts flowing. He’s 100% going to be there, and when he finds out you’re vegan, he is going to suggest, ask, and say the dumbest sh*t you’ve ever heard (“But It’s not Thanksgiving without Turkey”). Know that it’s coming in and don’t let him get to you. Just calmly explain your stance until some other topic grabs his attention – or he passes out from drinking too much.
*Bonus: We’ve created Vegan Self-defense 101 to help keep you mentally sharp and ready for anything anyone has to say. Including your crazy uncle!
8. Stay Spotlight Ready
As a kid, I used to pretend I was being interviewed so I’d be ready for when I was an NBA superstar. I never knew it’d come in so handy when I went vegan. Because every holiday season, like clockwork, I get a barrage of questions from people about veganism. And they’re generally never malicious. They’re questions the uninformed have about veganism. So it’s best to be ready for it so you’ll be able to answer them as accurately as you possibly can.
9. Get Your Oprah On
The reality is when you’re attending a Holiday dinner that someone else is putting on, the most you can do is try to make the best of it. That’s the same as borrowing or renting – if it’s not yours then you’re at the mercy of someone else’s rules. Which is why I suggest maybe hosting, or co-hosting, your own event. Then you’re totally in charge. You can customize it to your exact specifications, take all the guesswork out of it, and make it a plant-based utopia. (That’s my plan for this year, so yes, I am excited as a lark!)
*Bonus: We put together an awesome Easy 3-Ingredient Vegan Recipe Ebook to help make everything a little easier:
10. Hold The Wall
Yup, this is a Game Of Thrones AND a war reference rolled into one. But it might be the most important. You have to be able to hold down your vegan wall. Which translates to you being able to show pride, confidence, and conviction in the eyes and presence of people that might think you’re insane to not be partaking in Thanksgiving in the traditional sense. You’ll be the measuring stick as to what veganism is to many people. So if you make it look hard, super inconvenient, or something anything other than a normal, everyday thing – then that’s what it’ll seem to them. So, show them your best side and be a lion of a vegan.
Great luck! I have full faith in you!
~G. N. Warren
Vegr lover and contributor