Being a vegan at christmas can be challenging.
Sometimes the embodiment of such over-compensating merriment can be overwhelming as it is.
It’s difficult because we don’t want to begrudge others having a good time, but as a vegan its hard not to be aware of the demand of such collective indulgence on the meat and dairy industry.
Pigs in Blankets, jars of goose fat, overweight turkeys and birds stuffed amorphously inside one another to form some kind of cavernous flesh trophy, are firmly grounded in the facade of christmas tradition.
Sure you can congratulate yourself on the gifts no-one else will have thought of, feel good because Great Uncle Ed is getting his annual fill of familial enjoyment; but it doesn’t drown out the congratulatory clamour over the headless turkey centre piece; its bloated, lifeless bulk transmuted and revered in a kind of grotesque parody. Or the general excessive consumption of other flesh and secretions which are part and parcel (pun absolutely intended) of the festive season.
So how do we deal with this reality, one that vegans battle with both literally and figuratively all year round, but like other ethical concerns, is particularly highlighted this time of year?
Remember, an angry and bitter vegan doesn’t make for effective educating. You’re allowed to enjoy yourself whilst trying to make a difference at the same time.
Plan your Counter-Attack!
That turkey has still perished, inhumanity still perpetuates all around the globe, families will squander millions of pounds worth of food over the course of the holiday; you can’t change that single-handedly but you can set an example.
The very fact that you’re at that table and you have chosen to eschew meat and dairy and nasty eggnog, will create awareness in itself. And if your family is anything like mine, they will bring it up.
In that case, use questions to your advantage. Research 2-3 facts that might come in handy such as meat is the biggest contributor to global warming, the natural life-span of a turkey is ten years, and are usually killed around five months etc. Only use them if the time is appropriate, and if there are young ones around, keep it tame yet food for thought (literally). If you upset young relatives at christmas you are likely to be hailed some kind of christmas villain for the next few years and that won’t be good for anyone.
When you encounter the inevitable ‘I don’t know how you can resist After Eights/ baked camembert/ chocolate log etc,’ simply answer that your desire to not be a part of the suffering is greater than your desire for the aforementioned treats. And then point them in the direction of the barrage of delicious vegan goodies you’ve provided!
As above, think about common questions/comments in order to plan your constructive counter-attack!
You may not be able to sway the grown-ups but if your family extends to the new ‘progressive’ generation then your conversations are sure to prompt an awareness older generations aren’t accustomed to.
And hey, you didn’t even bring it up!
Cook something delicious!
My personal favourite form of indirect activism is cooking! Cook something delicious and place it on the table amongst the other trimmings; that way cynics won’t be so suspicious. After all potatoes/carrots/parsnips are all vegan too right?
Succulent vegan recipes abound, try your hand at seitan or a hearty pie or tart. Check out these recipes from The Vegan Society for some inspo!
It’s also an idea to employ a little one to help you. That way they may be more inclined to try. Also if you happen to be a favourite aunt or uncle (like moi) smaller kids like to have the same as their chosen elder, in fear they’re missing something.
When it comes to sweet treats there are of course plenty of cookies/ gingerbread/ chocolate cakes that are easily veganised; check out the 3 ingredient chocolate recipe I use- it’s delicious and easy. I like to add peanut butter for creaminess as my palette refuses to be wooed by dark chocolate.
Buy Vegan Treats
If you’re not much of a kitchen pioneer you can choose between many meat alternative brands such as Frys, Tofurkey and even supermarket home brands. Check out these recommendations from PETA UK.
While you’re at it, visit The Vegan Womble for more inconspicuous supermarket finds that will waylay suspicion and offer to do the shopping for any extra treaty bits.
Firmly eclipsing my V-dar this Christmas is the new limited edition salted caramel Kahlua available from most supermarkets which is sure to be a hit!
Buy Charitable Gifts
Another way to subtly spread positive vegany vibes is to donate to animal causes in a loved one’s name. Especially if they’re older and insist they have all the domestic clutter money can buy.
Although this could easily be an educational gift for a child which will no doubt include a cuddly toy so they don’t miss out on a present. This is usually in the form of a sponsorship (or ‘adoption’) for an animal whether cuddly, wild, exotic or all of the above! Much better than ‘buying’ a star!
Understandably, that may not bode well for everyone. Another option is to purchase ethical/ eco gifts to demonstrate how yummy and/ or how many options are available to vegan folk. Such gifts are usually kinder to the environment and thus will help minimise the increased mass destruction brought about by Santa and his wily elves.
If money is an object (the unfortunate downside to the above) then you can always make your gifts by baking, repurposing, upcycling (which I think is the same thing) and hunting around the house for bits and bobs that befit the boundless imaginations of small children. Check out my go-to lists from Lulastic for some inspiration on this topic.
This will also send the message to children that it’s not the money you spend but the time you invest in gifts that shows how much you cherish your loved ones.
Hopefully that’s enough for us to be getting on with! I sincerely hope I’ve inspired some hope in this post (that’s a lot of hope!) and the knowledge that simply being vegan will make a difference this Christmas, and even more so in Christmases to come.
So go forth: eat, drink and be merry….or if you simply wish to exclaim ‘bah humbug!’ then I won’t stop you!