Veganism at the Holiday Table: Four Tips for Talking with Family

Turkeys are highly social, intelligent and sensitive animals. They are very affectionate and create lasting social bonds with each other.

Going home for the holidays often involves finding a balance between celebrating with family, answering questions from relatives about veganism, and finding a seasonal vegan-friendly dish to eat with everyone. Read on for some of Ava’s tips to effectively share a message of compassion for animals at any holiday celebration while keeping your own wellbeing in mind.

I love the holiday season, seeing all my loved ones, and being reminded of childhood. I’m always excited about family gatherings until I remember that my “exotic vegan plate” and I will be on display for the entire night. 

While I can’t wait to see my family, I find myself not wanting to sit at the table with everyone. It’s hard to stomach watching the turkey in the center of the table while my family eats it. It’s hard having to explain to everyone everything about veganism all over again, for what feels like the millionth time. 

Ava Kian is a member of the CAA University of Minnesota chapter.

I strongly believe in educating and informing others from a place of love. In the past, I’ve found myself spending the entire night sharing vegan principles and dealing with immense amounts of criticism and backlash for doing so.

Here are four tips I now find helpful when entering holiday season:

  1. Try to stay calm. Keeping your cool is not easy when people attack your lifestyle choices and are blatantly rude about it. Still, it’s crucial to consider where others are coming from and the experiences that shaped their reactions towards veganism. 
  2. Don’t stir up drama. Now I know, usually, it’s not us who starts something, but when given the opportunity, don’t. Don’t go out of your way to explain all the reasons why you’re vegan unless your family is ultra-supportive, as it typically results in frustration on both ends.
  3. Holidays are what you make them. My first vegan thanksgiving was miserable because no one considered making me vegan alternatives to staple foods. The next year, I made an effort to make vegan alternatives for myself, and noticed my family wanted to help make it, and even enjoyed the meal! If you do not feel as if your family will prepare an inclusive meal, take the initiative to do so yourself, and lead by example. 
  4. Don’t expect everyone to be supportive. Meet your family where they’re at and recognize that not everyone can and will make the same choices as you. During my first few vegan holidays, I struggled to form connections with family, given that we didn’t hold the same values. As a result, my relationships suffered, and I developed internal biases against family members. To avoid that, I recommend keeping an open mind and being okay with people, not understanding. The world isn’t perfect, and it’s not productive to expect perfection from all your loved ones.

None of this is to say you should let people criticize you, disrespect you, laugh, or question your choices. If anyone does that, it’s necessary to stand up not only for yourself but for the cause. Stay true to your values and be firm on what you stand for, but make sure to keep your wellbeing in mind.

Ava Kian is a member of the Compassionate Action for Animals chapter at the University of Minnesota.

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