After five long years it finally happened... two of my best friends joined me in becoming vegan. Yay! Since both of them are about six months in at this point, they have gotten past the initial stage of asking me a lot of questions. That is until last week, when the topic of Thanksgiving produced a new flux of confusion and dread. Now most of the readers of this post will agree that Thanksgiving is a highly problematic holiday. I can think of many ways to practice gratitude that don’t involve Native genocide, turkey slaughter, or Black Friday shopping. However, this piece is advice for new vegans who find themselves in the traditional American holiday setup this fall/winter season and are fuming or intimidated by the idea of upholding their new beliefs.
The idea of going back home for the holidays, now that you are vegan, can create a slew of nightmare scenarios rivaled only by last year's election debates. Let's put ourselves on the path for joy as we head into new and potentially sticky territory.
First, envision the best possible outcome. What do you feel?
Let's decide the goal of the event is to feel gratitude and that maybe you also want to introduce your loved ones to the remarkable effect that veganism has had on your life.
Remember that at all of the holiday events past, you most likely felt very differently about food, traditions, animals, and health. Let’s keep that in mind. YOU are the one who has changed. While it can be tempting to lay into everyone with your new arsenal of facts and statistics, remember that everyone is journeying toward healing themselves. Show them that you are happier and healthier by being that way. It's harder to convince someone that veganism will improve their lives if they’ve never seen you angrier or more disheveled than when you ruined dinner by screening “What the Health” from your iPhone during appetizers.
Just say "I feel better"
You don’t have to look for a window into discussing your veganism. It will come up in the planning, prepping, and execution of the event. People who aren’t vegan CONSTANTLY bring it up. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or out of diplomatic answers for why you no longer consume animal products, simply say “I feel better.” Maybe you feel better about your environmental impact, about lessening the suffering of animals, or simply physically/mentally/psychically. Perhaps your choice to be vegan spiritually elevated you. Either way it’s a fact that only a fool can dispute.
REP THE SQUAD Use your good friend Google: there are so many incredible recipes and ideas. You won't have to convince them that there is an array of delicious vegan food in the world, if you just slay a side dish. (The most tasty, the most colorful!) 😏
Blessing alert! You many find that going vegan has you helping out in the kitchen more this year. Tip: I think the easiest substitute to sell your chef on is Earth Balance Butter. You can even sneak it into the butter holder and not tell anyone, unless they have allergies. Everyone should eat it happily and it works as a substitute in all of the traditional recipes as well. hehe!
Friendsgiving?If you are planning on bringing food for just yourself, remember that sometimes these holidays are AN ALL DAY eating affair and that everyone will be curious and want to taste your plate (minus the super stubborn.)My college option was to order a Whole Foods Market Vegan Thanksgiving Plate for one and then grab a vegan pie for everyone to try.
Home to the hunters? Aka, is the environment painfully meat/hunting/murder centered? Take a breath! Look for things and people in the gathering to appreciate. If you feel overwhelmed by the food or general conversation at the table, remember your intention to gather and be thankful. Focus on the only tradition that needs to be upheld, communal gathering in the name of gratitude. Before you were vegan, you most likely had totally different beliefs about food, agriculture, animals, world hunger, and traditions.
STAY HIGH VIBING
Judging someone else’s spirituality separates you from your higher being. And while sometimes we feel scared that our loved ones are harming themselves or others, no one that I know was converted to veganism by angry voices. We want to break bread with people of diverse beliefs: this is the cornerstone of progress. Make it your mission to celebrate the beauty of veganism and the beauty of life this holiday season and always.
Zeniba Britt is a writer, director, and singer. She recently completed a Writing Residency at The Public Theatre through the #BARS workshop. She is now pursuing a Master's Degree at NYU Gallatin. ZenibaBritt.com | @ZenibaNow
The Views expressed by the writer are not necessarily shared by the producer, seasoned vegan.