The holidays are supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. So why do they sometimes feel like a gut punch for vegans?
Maybe it’s the dead animals on the table. Or the probing questions your family can’t help but ask.
The holidays are hard to navigate, and they can be especially distressing for new vegans. But with an ounce of preparation and a dash of effective communication, you can celebrate winter holidays with vegans and non-vegans alike.
As explained by renowned psychologist and author Dr. Melanie Joy, when vegans see an animal carcass on a table, we often imagine the torment that the individual likely endured. “Then we see people who we might love most in the world putting that body into their mouths and treating us like something is wrong with us for feeling horrified and offended.
New vegans might be surprised by the feelings of their closest family members.
According to podcaster and best-selling author Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, parents sometimes feel we’re saying no to what they’ve taught and given us when we say no to foods they’ve always fed us.
Leaving family traditions and customs behind is a normal part of growing up, noted Colleen. We all “take from our families what works and then leave behind what doesn’t speak to us anymore.
Melanie suggested vegans “anchor themselves in their own truths as the holidays approach. Acknowledge that “feelings of sadness, grief, and anger are helpful and legitimate responses to this massive social injustice, and don’t second-guess beliefs.
Communicate needs to family members ahead of holiday events. Offer to help by bringing plant-based dishes, share information on easy vegan swaps, or provide recipes.
Talk to event hosts about keeping animal carcasses off the table and out of sight.
Communicating well with family and friends during the holidays can eliminate heated arguments and facilitate a more comfortable environment.
Colleen and Melanie both pointed out that sharing your vegan story is powerful and will help others understand your perspective.
Don’t stress out about memorizing facts and statistics—just speak from the heart.
Melanie recommended focusing on your communication process. When your process is healthy, she added, it’s not about proving who is right but rather coming to an understanding of each other’s feelings.
Melanie said to remember that good people sometimes participate in harmful practices and we can’t force people to change. What most distresses many vegans about close relationships with non-vegans is not that these people eat animals but that they are not vegan allies.
“A vegan ally is a supporter of vegans and veganism even though they are not fully vegan themselves, she explained. “If you have a close relationship with someone, you have an obligation to be an ally to that person.
Of course, there are exceptions. We are not obligated to be allies when allyship would violate our own integrity or make us feel unsafe, she clarified. A hunter asking a vegan to be an ally would be inappropriate, for example.
Allies understand enough about veganism that they go out of their way to ensure vegans feel safe in their presence, Melanie said. Having even one ally at a holiday event can make a big difference.