For many vegans, holidays symbolize a joyous time of
love, warmth, and goodwill. Accordingly, it is understandable
that we should be appalled to see festivities that entail
decorating tables with corpses. Because vegans honor
life in all its diverse designs, it can seem outrageous
that the token of generosity and goodwill does not extend
itself to our nonhuman brethren. It may seem even more
outlandish when coupled with the selective compassion
many people evidence on the holidays. Some people lavish
their pets with toys and treats and presents galore,
treating them as an equal family member; yet these very
same people would condone the factory-farm life, brutal
slaughter, and consumption of the animals they consider
food. To witness this can be upsetting, to say the least.
During the holiday season, we surround ourselves with
friends and family. We seek out the comfort and companionship
of the ones we love, but it is on these occasions that
some vegans feel the most ostracized and isolated. Around
the dinner table our veganism comes to the fore, our
morals plainly broadcast for all to see. Even the most
secure vegan can feel the heat of scrutiny, and even
the most well-meaning criticisms are just that: critical.
Often questions and false assumptions emanate from our
closest family and friends. Light-hearted banter may
then lead to defensive or outright hostile attitudes
on both sides. These feelings can shatter the sense
of peace and well-being that we come together to celebrate.
So what can we do to overcome these obstacles to holiday
enjoyment? How can we reclaim those feelings of warmth
and closeness during the season of joy and inner peace?
- Adjust your attitude.
Remember that holidays are supposed to be fun for
all involved! Nitpicking and a "holier than thou"
attitude is always a dampener and often leads to hurt
feelings. For those who are not hosting festivities,
it is important to remember that you are a guest in
someone's home, and that a negative mood does little
to win brownie points. Conversely, don't allow the
opinion of one trouble-stirring guest dampen your
holiday spirit. Rudeness is universal, and there is
almost always one family member who will try to start
a fight. The best advise is to simply turn the other
cheek and enjoy the company of other, more agreeable
- Compromise, but don't sacrifice your ethics.
The nice thing about hosting is that you ultimately
have the decision of what is served, who will be attending,
and how the day should be planned and carried out.
This means easy adherence to vegan philosophy; simply
serve a vegan meal. It is only when you become the
guest that things get sticky. Ideally, your host would
serve a completely vegan meal that was not only animal-free,
but also unique and delicious. In most cases, vegan
dishes are present, but often as sides and of dubious
nutritional value. They may very well be unappealing
(I for one have had my fill of salads, the only food
my omni hosts seem to think a vegan eats!) and less
than filling. My suggestion is to talk with hosts
in advance, and if nothing appeals to you, get the
okay to bring a vegan dish of your own. Fix enough
to feed the entire group, and you may find more people
asking for seconds of that wonderful concoction!
- Don't use the dinner table as your personal forum.
That is what Vegan Views is for! Using the meal as
a way to preach philosophy is probably the easiest
way to put people on the offensive. Remember that
the path to veganism is that of gentle guidance, and
aggressiveness rarely gets the point across. Those
who dine with you are a captive audience, so while
sharing your views is acceptable (especially if they
ask for them) verbally beating your guests into submission
- Don't give vegan propaganda as gifts.
With enlightenment comes the wish to share this common
wisdom with those we love. Here vegans must walk a
fine line between what is a mutually enjoyable gift
and what pleases the giver more than the receiver.
Gifts should be given with the recipient's wishes
in mind. A vegan cookbook for a chef is a useful and
mutually appreciated gift; a vegan cookbook for your
teenage nephew is not. Consider how you would receive
a gift of a hunting bow, or a cheese log. Because
we tend to think of our lifestyle as non-offensive,
it is easy to get carried away "spreading the message."
Keep gifts simple, pleasurable for the recipient,
and without hidden messages.
- Realize that acceptance is a two-way street.
'Tis the season for open hearts and minds. We often
expect others to embrace us for who we are but fail
to do the same for them. Tolerance is something vegans
must practice in all aspects of their relationships,
or they will find themselves very much alone. Understanding
takes patience, and though we might not agree with
the practices of those we love, we still love them
nonetheless. Let them know how much you appreciate
them and their support, and offer your support in
turn. Only then can there be true warmth and kindness.
e x t e s s a y -
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