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How to Navigate the Holiday Season

Written by Malina Tran | December 7, 2021

The holiday season conjures up notions of family, traditions, and togetherness. This time of the year can be filled with high expectations and heightened stress to do all of the things: give the best gifts, cook the most delectable meals, and be the most gracious host to your guests. Notwithstanding the pandemic and seasonal depression, it can be an emotionally challenging and draining experience. And being vegan, whether newly-minted or veteran, whether you live or celebrate with non-vegans, can present unique challenges during the holidays.

As such, we’ve corralled some tips on how to navigate the holidays that not only honors your values and identity, but also hopefully helps preserve your mental health and keep up the holiday cheer. We hope you enjoy them and feel free to share any ideas you have with us!

Making Meals

Food is often at the centerpiece of gatherings and there are a plethora of resources for making your holiday season memorable. See below for some of our favorite (and mouth-watering) YouTube videos for how to give a plant-based twist on traditional dishes:

  • An easy-to-make and affordable medley of caramelized carrots, potatoes, and Wellington with spiced cabbage

  • A full vegan spread of nut roast, braised red cabbage, roast potatoes, parsnips, brussel sprouts, and maple roasted carrots—or if you’re inclined to make butternut squash the show-stopper

  • For potlucks, pick from this roundup of appetizers, sides, roasts, desserts and drinks 

  • For the sweet-toothed vegans among us: gingerbread, sugar, and pecan shortbread cookies

  • Want to spend less time in the kitchen? Peep this ultimate holiday guide at Trader Joe’s (we’re eying the harvest chili, gingerbread loaf, and eggnog... just to name a few!)

Giving and Receiving Gifts

We have previously shared ideas on getting gifts for vegans. Our suggestion is to be mindful of clothes, shoes, purses, and other accessories made of leather and other animal-derived materials such as wool, suede and fur. If looking for clothing, check out this running list of vegan clothing brands from around the world. Alternatively, consider donations to your vegan friend’s favorite animal charity or buying them books on veganism or vegan recipes. For a healthy dose of novel experiences, we recommend subscriptions to a meal delivery service, beauty box, magazines or any other publications. If you care about supporting small businesses and the local economy, consider purchasing gift cards to vegan restaurants or bakeries or thoughtful cozy products like soy wax candles or other handmade items.

For personal care items, we've got you covered. Given that the cosmetic world is rife with products tested on animals, we shared in a previous blog post about a few makeup brands that are both vegan (not animal-derived) and cruelty-free (not tested on animals). More and more, you can find skincare, makeup, hair, and bath products that are widely available and accessible at various price points. We found this comprehensive list of brands for all of your personal care and beauty needs. While vegan labels may be advertised on products, it’s often not clear about its animal testing status. Our advice? When you’re out and about, scan the product’s barcode with the Cruelty Cutter app!

Celebrating in Communion With Others

It is tradition to usher in the new year with fireworks. While this may be a dazzling spectacle across the night sky, fireworks also present physical and emotional hazards to animals. Physical damage to animals’ hearing, anxiety among dogs and cats, and disorientation to birds are just some of the consequences of firework displays. It is a step in the right direction that alternatives such as laser light shows or silent fireworks are being introduced. To help alleviate animals' fears during this time, you may want to opt to stay indoors—whether it’s volunteering at a nearby dog shelter or soothing your own companion animals.

Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of the holiday season is the company that you find yourself with, especially those who are not vegan themselves. If spending time with family and friends this holiday season, conversations around veganism (and your choice to be vegan) may inevitably come up. We’ve previously shared tips on how to deal with non-vegans. Our biggest tip? Don’t forget that gentle, two-way communication can go a long way. This will not help facilitate a civil conversation, but help ensure your own peace of mind.

Bruce Friedrich, founder of The Good Food Institute, provides useful tips on how to handle such conversations. He advises employing the Socratic method, which is a series of asking questions to stimulate critical thinking. Rather than lecturing at and shaming others who may not be aware of veganism, he suggests asking questions (“do you have a companion animal?” followed by “have you considered whether there’s a difference between your cat, chickens, pigs, and cows?”) When things get heated, he suggests mindfulness as a tool to self-regulate emotions and demonstrate a willingness to move on from the topic at hand.

We hope you’ve found this blog post handy as you tackle the holiday season! As this year draws to a close, we are excited to share some of our highlights and successes in 2021 soon, as well as announce exciting projects and changes in 2022. We hope that you have a safe, happy, and healthy holiday.

About the Author
Malina Tran

Malina writes stories and writes code. She has written and published stories about animal advocacy, activism, culture, and identity. Originally from Los Angeles, she is based in Amsterdam.