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Vegans at the Family Holiday

For new vegans, and even for those who have been vegan for a long time, visiting the family home has the potential to be problematic at any time of year. And for non-vegan family members, the task of preparing food that will keep everyone happy can be daunting.

As easy as it is to be vegan in these times of abundant food choices, there are certain situations in which social expectations present us with specific challenges. Holidays are probably one of the most difficult times of year for many vegans, as the pressure of returning home to celebrate with loved ones can lead to anxiety around the issue of what will be served for the holiday meal.

The longer we are vegan, the more strongly we tend to feel about the subject of sitting down at a table where people are consuming animal products, and for many of us, the  conclusion we end up reaching is that it is only reasonable to resolve not to do so.

This can be particularly difficult on occasions such Christmas, when sharing food is central to the gathering of family and friends. When faced with the challenge of being surrounded by the food that is generally served at such events, vegans can end up feeling so uneasy that they might decide not to attend at all. If they do choose to attend, the other guests can find themselves feeling uncomfortable about what’s on their plates.

But with understanding, patience and compassion on both sides, it is actually very easy to turn a potentially tricky situation into a fabulous time for all. Incorporating vegan dishes, and even serving a completely vegan holiday meal (as my mother and I have done many times, with great success) can lead to a new level of shared respect, love and gratitude that can actually serve to bring families closer.

When a vegan is willing to take the time and effort to help their family and loved ones incorporate delicious vegan food into the menu, and non-vegans are open-minded and even enthusiastic about trying something new, everyone can enjoy a magnificent, cruelty-free meal, and ‘veganism’ can actually become a part of the celebration.

I am truly fortunate to be part of a very accommodating family. My mother, while not a vegan herself (well, not yet anyway), is a shining example of a vegan-friendly parent, even going to such lengths as ‘veganizing’ her pre-planned Christmas gathering when a last-minute change of plans led me to decide I would be there after all.

My family’s readiness to adapt to my needs when I’m visiting is something I am tremendously grateful for, especially because I know many vegans who are not so lucky. For the vegan whose choices are not accepted by their parents or siblings, visits home can cause significant anxiety for all involved. But this really doesn’t have to be the case.

The more one’s family members are open to including vegan food in their dining (which might be dependent, in some cases, on the vegan individual being willing to help the host, where appropriate), the more welcome the vegan will feel, and the more comfortable everyone will be.

Being vegan is about embracing the philosophy of nonviolence and adjusting one’s diet and lifestyle to incorporate the values of justice, compassion and kindness to others. Although the dietary requirements that go along with this belief system may appear very restrictive at first, the truth is that vegan cuisine can be fun, exciting, delicious, healthful, and satisfying, and can make a beautiful, colorful spread for a holiday table.

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