By Louisa Kendal

Christmas on Female First

Christmas on Female First

We all know Christmas can be a challenging time of year as vegans. We’re bombarded with adverts about meaty Christmas dinners, forced to spend time with distant relatives who are still asking what ‘this whole vegan thing is about’ and watch our loved ones do something we find so hard to see.

Most of us aren’t so lucky to live in a family where veganism is the norm or even well accepted. Even after three years of being the only vegan at the family Christmas dinner, it’s still a time of year I find challenging.

That said, I have learned key lessons on how to survive Christmas as a vegan during these three years, and it’s now far more manageable than it was when I first went vegan. So whether it’s your first vegan Christmas or your fiftieth, here are my top tips on how to survive Christmas with your family.

Talk to your family about it before Christmas Day

If you’ve recently gone vegan, or your family still aren’t getting the memo, talking to them about veganism before Christmas Day can make things much easier. You can politely send them a text telling them why you are vegan, and let them know of any requests you might have. For example, you might ask if they can make vegan food for you or you could ask them to make sure they keep the vegan food you bring separate from the meat and dairy on the table.

This also allows curious family members to ask questions before Christmas Day, taking the pressure off you during the festivities.

Always come prepared with vegan food

There’s nothing worse than turning up for a family meal and realising they forgot to make you a vegan option or finding out ‘they didn’t know butter/milk/cheese isn’t vegan’. Especially if this is your first vegan Christmas, family members might not be used to it yet or understand what veganism is.

By bringing your own food, you can show people how delicious it is to be vegan and easily dismiss any comments about only eating ‘rabbit food’. This is a great form of subtle, positive vegan activism at Christmas and gives people who have not considered veganism before a positive perspective on it. We have plenty of Christmas recipes in our Deliciously Vegan Christmas Guide

Don’t engage in debates over the dinner table

There is a time and a place to discuss veganism, and when people are engaging in the very activity we’re trying to show them is wrong is definitely not one of them.

Naturally, veganism comes up over the dinner table as people notice your vegan food and are curious (or antagonistic) about it. While it can be hard to not to engage in a conversation when someone asks about it, I’ve realised that it’s a wasted chance to bring someone closer to going vegan.

It’s much more effective to simply say ‘I don’t think now is the best time to discuss it, but if you’re interested I’d love to discuss it later.’ That way, you can park the conversation until a less controversial time and give the person space to decide whether they’re ready to hear your reasons. Telling someone the moral, environmental and health reasons for veganism can easily trigger defense mechanisms meaning they’re not ready to change in their own life. This is definitely heightened while they are eating meat, so my advice is to steer clear.

Try not to be judgemental

This is the biggest, and hardest, thing I have learned to do when it comes to veganism and family. Watching your loved ones happily tuck into an animal you know has immensely suffered for their meal can be upsetting and anger-inducing. It’s even harder to bite your tongue as they do this and not engage in a debate.

But trust me, coming it at from this angle will end in nothing but stubbornness. No one likes to be told they are wrong, and while you might think they are, this is never going to make them more open to veganism.

My advice is to try and understand why they think eating animals is acceptable and go from there. Do they have cognitive dissonance? Do they not understand animal agriculture’s impact on the environment? A discussion about these topics is always better than a defensive debate, so try and empathise with your family members which should create more productive conversations about veganism.

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