Navigating the Holidays
From Animal Rights/Vegan Activist Strategies Articles Archive

FROM Cindy Thompson, VLCE,
December 2019

I hope this helps you have the holiday you want to have! It takes a bit of planning and preparedness to have a successful day. Consider the options, role-play some conversations, try some new or update some old recipes. But make it the day you want.

Holiday gatherings

The holidays can feel daunting as a new vegan. Most of us have well-established holiday routines. How will you navigate gatherings? What about questions and potential hostility? You can have an awesome vegan holiday, you just need a little preparation and planning. Hereís some tips and strategies.

Hosting Your Own

Knowing and setting boundaries is important. You simply need to communicate, thereís no way around it.

Maybe you just want to provide everything to avoid animal-based foods:

Hey there, weíre so excited youíre coming for dinner! Weíre going to have all kinds of great food to share! Donít bring a thing, other than your appetite! Weíve changed some things about how we eat since last time weíve gotten together (weíre plant-based now) so come enjoy a great meal with us. Just come and enjoy!

If someone insists on bringing something, have an idea for them: a green salad without dressing, a fruit or veggie tray, or wine. Or share a recipe link.

What if They Bring Something Animal-based?

Just be gracious! Thank them and ask what it is. Nowís NOT the time to go into how youíre not going to eat any of it. Just simply set it out for them to partake in and donít make a big deal about it.

offended Woman

If there are other plant-based eaters in your party, discretely let them know.

If they ask later if you liked it, hereís a way to respond:

Oh gosh, it looked great! I wasnít able to have any because Iíve changed how I eat, but it looks like others enjoyed it!

Going to Someone Elseís House

It isnít rude to let your host know of your eating preferencesóitís very respectful so they can plan accordingly. Itís simply akin to letting them know of an allergy or sensitivity.

I wanted to let you know that Iíve changed some things about how I eat. I eat plant-based and no longer eat meat, fish, or dairy. Itís not a big deal and you donít need to change your plans, I just wanted to let you know Iíll be bringing something go along and share. I was thinking about bringing a side dish and a little dessert, if that works. Do you have a specific theme so I can make sure what I bring fits in with the meal?

Bringing dishes ensures we have something we can eat, however, bringing enough to share is the MOST important part, hereís why:

  • Youíre being inclusive rather than exclusive
  • People discover how good eating plant-based is!
  • It promotes healthy eating
  • Isnít sharing the abundance the spirit of getting together anyway?

Some people are great about changing the whole meal to accommodate your way of eating, which is awesome! Be prepared to share specifics about how you eat and even offer to send them some recipes to help.

Dealing with Hostility

Odds are, youíre not going to run into too many problems. Itís important to have some diplomacy. Remember this is your own ethical/lifestyle choice, not someone elseís, and some may feel confused, disappointed, embarrassed, and judged by your own personal decision.


Thoughtful communication and respect for differences are key.

However, you may run into some hostility. Remember, you cannot control other peopleís reactions, only your own. A simple tactic when asked why you changed your eating is to simply answer, ďI just feel so much better now eating this way. It works for me.Ē If it gets too personal, just say, ďOh, you know, itís a health thing and I just donít want to get into all those details.Ē Keep calm, avoid arguing, and remove yourself from the situation if it gets too intense.

Make Alternate Plans

You know your own situation and boundaries. Have an open mind, but consider past situations, to determine how the interactions may be at this event.

Cindy Thompson

If you know others at this event are not supportive and will be adversarial, consider whether it will be a healthy environment for you. If you can weather this, great, go! If itís just going to be too much, donít.

Here are some other things to do:

  • Go later, after the food
  • Organize or attend a vegan holiday potluck
  • Volunteer at an animal sanctuary
  • Do something else

I hope this helps you have the holiday you want to have! It takes a bit of planning and preparedness to have a successful day. Consider the options, role-play some conversations, try some new or update some old recipes. But make it the day you want.

Cindy Thompson is a Main Street Vegan Academy Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator and an American Council on Exercise certified Health Coach, Peer Fitness Trainer, and Fitness Nutrition Specialist outside of Seattle, WA. Recently retired from a 20-year firefighting career, she has a MS in Leadership, specializing in Servant Leadership. She provides health and lifestyle coaching at Trimazing! Vegan Lifestyle & Health Coaching.

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