How to Survive Being Vegan at Christmas & What do Vegans Eat?

Christmas Tree
Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

Christmas can be a stressful time for lots of reasons, including familial conflicts, financial concerns, the workload falling disproportionately on one person, and pressure to host a “perfect” day. No one is immune but when you add being vegan into the mix, the stresses can grow and grow.

How Do Vegans Survive Christmas?

For vegetarians and vegans, there is one stress that others do not have: sitting down to a celebratory meal with a turkey’s carcass on the table before them. For those of us who have witnessed the suffering endured by animals inside factory farms and slaughterhouses, this can be painful, saddening, and very difficult. The fact that not everyone around the table understands our distress can also add to feelings of isolation. This is why, for vegans, it’s really important to plan ahead, to initiate discussions, and to find practical ways to make sure the day is joyous for everyone.

1. Bring A Dish Everyone Can Enjoy

If someone else is cooking the Christmas meal, and they are not vegan, you need to speak to them before the day! Find out what is on the menu, and how much of it you will be able to eat. Then bring a dish to complement the meal, not just for yourself, but so that everyone can try it. Never miss an opportunity to show how delicious vegan food can be!

2. Offer To Help The Cook

Being the cook at Christmas can be incredibly stressful. Trying to get a dozen dishes on the table all at the same time, while a troop of high-spirited but hungry people are waiting is no easy task. This means that sometimes the vegan’s specific needs may take a back seat. If you can offer to help the cook, you will reduce their stress, be certain which dishes are vegan, and make sure there is something tasty for you to eat, too.

3. Ask That The Meat Be Served Elsewhere

Most vegans are used to being around people eating meat. We may not like it but we know it happens and it may be possible to turn a blind eye to it. However, an animal’s carcass sitting in the middle of the table is hard to ignore. If you find this distressing, one small concession you may ask of the host is that the meat is served on the plate before coming to the table.

4. Eat At Home

If being around meat is too upsetting, or if your host is struggling to feed you, even with your offers of help, it is fine to accept an invitation to visit after their meal has been eaten. Cook yourself up a tasty meal at home, then pack up your gifts, crackers and Christmas cheer, and join your loved ones for the rest of the day.

5. Host Your Own Festive Vegan Christmas Party

Another option is to invite everyone to eat with you! It is natural for meat-eaters to be wary about a vegan Christmas lunch but if you are serving vegan versions of all the dishes that are traditional in your family and region, they may find they don’t miss the turkey meat at all.

6. Plan Your Vegan Christmas Dinner

Wherever and however you are eating, you will need to plan ahead. Don’t assume your host knows exactly what is vegan or has made special arrangements for you. And if people are coming to yours for lunch, you’ll want to make sure you give them a meal they will love. Either way, to avoid disappointment and hungry tummies, planning is key.

7. Christmas Day Is Just One Day

With such a long build-up, we can feel a huge pressure to “get things right” on the day. But this is just one day in the year and we would be wise not to sweat the small stuff. So long as we are with the people that matter most and there is food in our bellies, the day will be wonderful.

8. Embrace The Festive Cheer

The human tendency is to focus on the negatives – the things that go wrong or are not as we’d hoped they would be. But if we can leave those kinds of concerns behind, at least for this one day, and focus on the positives – being with people that matter to us, laughter, music, candlelight, giving and receiving gifts, and plenty of love – we may just find we have a joyful day, despite any hiccups that occur with the meal.

9. Get Prepared For The Questions

New vegans have to field a lot of questions. People are intrigued by both the reasons for veganism and the practicalities of it. It’s unlikely you’ll make it through an entire Christmas meal without something cropping up. Some vegans may embrace the opportunity to talk about these things; others may hope for a day off from all the questions! Either way, it’s best to be prepared. If you’re keen to engage, just be aware that you are unlikely to make converts to veganism during a Christmas lunch, so you may suggest deferring that conversation until later in the day. People may be more receptive to the issues when they are not actually eating meat at the time.

10. Practice Patience

Things are rarely perfect, and even with the best planning in the world, the Christmas joy you had hoped for could still turn sour. Someone may say something hurtful, or make jokes you find disatestful. Take a deep breath. Perhaps we were in their shoes not so long ago or perhaps they have difficulties in their own lives that you know nothing about. It’s just one day, so try to let grievances go. You’ll feel better for it if you do.

11. Teach By Example

Here’s a fact we all know: people rarely enjoy being lectured about their own choices and behavior! We know that animal agriculture is responsible for huge amounts of climate-changing emissions, billions of animals suffering and dying, deforestation, pollution and many other devastating impacts. But telling people this all in one go can be overwhelming, and can lead to them feeling guilty or defensive or even angry at you for telling them. Instead, teach by example. Show them that vegans are compassionate and rational, and that they eat great food and enjoy life. Dispelling prejudices about vegan stereotypes can do more to move people along the path than you might think.

12. Be The Kind Of Vegan You Wish You’d Met Before You Were Vegan

There is a way to introduce veganism to anyone. After all, everyone cares about something, and since animal agriculture has profoundly negative consequences for animals, wild places, the climate, global health and our future, everyone can be engaged in the conversation. Encouragement, support and understanding go a long way.

13. There’s More To Christmas Than Food

If, despite all your best planning, your much-anticipated Christmas meal was something of a let-down, don’t be disheartened. There is more to Christmas than food. There is faith, family, love and joy. There are games, singing, a glass of wine perhaps and a Christmas movie. Whatever traditions are dear to you are just as important as the food.

14. Make New Traditions

While much of the beauty of Christmas lies in the traditions we follow, there is still room to make new traditions, too. So go ahead and tweak your day – taking out the parts that no longer serve you and adding in things that are more meaningful. This is your day, so make it what you want it to be. And yes, that could mean chocolate for breakfast. Why not?!

15. Don’t Forget Your Vegan Christmas Jumper

Most woolly jumpers are not actually made of wool and so there is no excuse for missing out on a seasonal jumper if that’s what makes you happy.

What Do Vegans Eat At Christmas?

What vegans eat at Christmas very much depends on what they ate before they became vegan! And this depends on many things including where in the world they live and their own family’s traditions and preferences. Since there are vegan versions of just about everything, it is likely vegans will still eat the foods they have always loved – but made vegan. This could mean small differences, such as cooking the potatoes in oil instead of goose fat or changing the centerpiece from turkey to vegan turkey meat or something else entirely, such as a mushroom and chestnut wellington. Most vegans will want to keep many of the food traditions they have enjoyed and this could mean a Christmas feast of any or all of these: vegan turkey meat, roast potatoes, parsnips and squash, spiced red cabbage, cauliflower cheese, mashed potato, stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce. Dessert could be Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, mince pies or anything else they fancy as all these – and most other desserts – can be made vegan with no loss of flavor.

What To Do If You Receive A Non-vegan Gift?

It is not uncommon for non-vegan friends, family and colleagues to buy something they are sure you will love, not realising it is not vegan. Our advice is to be gracious! You cannot change what is done but you can upset someone who only wanted to do something kind for you. We’d suggest thanking them, and later passing the gift to someone else who can use it. Then, make a mental note to yourself to draw up a list of gifts you would love to receive sometime before next Christmas!

Conclusion

Becoming vegan does not change the fact that we want to spend Christmas with the people we love, enjoying our traditions, and eating good food. It’s just that we want to do all of that without causing suffering or disproportionately adding to climate breakdown. Vegans believe in a kinder world for all, and live by those principles, and isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

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