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I am sixty-one years old. Recently I discovered the atrocities inflicted upon the animals with whom we share our world, and what horrendous pain they go through before getting to our tables. After watching videos of suffering animals and barely making it to the bathroom before throwing up, I vowed to never eat animal products again. I became vegan overnight. I did not ease into it, nor did I feel put upon by having to give up certain foods I once loved. After more than sixty years of eating meat and animal products, I did a complete turnaround in how I view the human diet. My youngest daughter made sure that I had a Tofurky for Thanksgiving dinner, so I felt comfortable while the rest of the family ate their normal fare. My question is: How do I host a holiday party at my house when no one else in my family will even consider veganism? I refuse to cook animals or use any animal products in a meal. Do I just not have the festivities at my house and simply let my children host them at their homes? Will insisting on this alienate me from my children?
Your question is a fascinating one because it turns the tables on a common situation. Usually teens or adult children complain about their parentsí difficulty accepting their choice to be vegan rather than the other way around. Your situation is intriguing and encouraging for another reason--you made a life-altering transformation immediately after being confronted with graphic evidence about animal abuse in the food industry, abuse that you previously didnít even know occurred. You didnít worry about what you would now eat or fret over lost pleasures. You awakened in an instant, and that is an extraordinary and commendable feat.
How your family members perceive your decision is something each of them must grapple with individually. You have every right and reason to inform them of what motivated your dramatic change; you are not responsible for their reactions. One of the primary differences between accommodating you at their home and you accommodating them at yours is that when they prepare vegan food for you they are not compromising their ethics or belief systems. If you were to prepare meat or other animal products for them in your home, you would be violating a commitment you have made to yourself, one that is based on an ethical conviction.
Holidays are an emotional time. We tend to have a lot of expectations for holiday gatherings, and food plays a major role in our sentiments, real or fantasized. Family members often behave as if the holiday couldnít be authentic without certain foods, even though nearly all the holidays that we celebrate are fairly recent developments and the foods we believe are so ďtraditionalĒ are often rooted in the modern hype and marketing of manufacturers, with rarely any long-established historical relevance.
One meal for one day that doesnít contain animal products is hardly a hardship. There are many people who would view the experience as an adventure, an opportunity to explore new tastes, textures, and cuisines. There also may be some who would prefer to criticize your decision and may behave as though your choice to serve vegan food is somehow destroying the holiday spirit. A point to keep in mind is that everyone can dine on vegan fare. Good food is good food, regardless of whether or not it contains animal products.
Your children should be proud of you--your willingness to grow and change, despite any hardships or sacrifices, is inspiring. Considering your age, it is even more admirable. If they cannot accept your decision and honor your choice, that is their loss. If you want to host a holiday meal, you absolutely should do so. If your children feel alienated, donít take it personally. They have the right to remain closed-minded, just as you have seized the opportunity to challenge yourself and expand your heart.
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