December ushers in the beginning of holiday gatherings, which often means being the only vegan in the room. This can also mean answering unintentionally rude questions from strangers with otherwise good intentions. But don’t get angry at these party-goers—instead, keep calm and carry on … about veganism! To accomplish this, we’ve created six easy steps to make end-of-year parties a fun way to promote a cruelty-free lifestyle.
1. Speak up!
This might sound obvious, but reminding your host that you’re vegan is the first step to ensuring a terrific holiday gathering. And thanks to veganism going mainstream, the party-thrower probably knows several vegans and might be anticipating specific dietary needs among guests. So, when accepting the invitation, offer to bring a dish or two. From there, let the host lead the way and have some fun!
2. Spread the joy
Being vegan can bring joy in dozens of different ways. Once we feel good, it’s only natural to want to spread this positivity to others. However, many don’t want to feel like they are being given a lecture, particularly at a party. To remedy this, promote veganism with a smile. A few ways to do this include talking about your favorite dishes by focusing on the food and not the politics of what’s on your plate, bringing index cards for recipe sharing, being ready to discuss the positive impact that your vegan lifestyle has had on you personally, and expressing your hopefulness about the positive impact that a vegan lifestyle has on the planet. Show how much you love being vegan, and you might be surprised at how many people want to know more.
3. Set conversation boundaries and stick to them
Before you walk through that door, decide how much you are willing to talk about veganism. While it’s good to stick up to your beliefs in whichever ways feel right to you, you don’t owe anyone explanations for your choices. If you’d prefer to state that you eat a plant-based diet for personal reasons, that’s okay. On the other hand, if someone asks why you are vegan, you might want to speak in depth about your reasons. Decide ahead of time how you want to handle nosy questions so you aren’t caught off-guard and tempted to give a response that you later regret.
4. Use an inclusive tone
Because the “angry vegan” stereotype is all too prevalent, some people might feel defensive when they hear you don’t eat meat and dairy. Luckily, you can change this perception through your actions and your words. Joining a conversation in a warm, welcoming way can help set everyone at ease, so engage future friends with open-ended questions such as “If you had to pick any fictional character who is most like you, who would it be?” or “How do you and the host know each other?” By using an inclusive tone, these questions can be used as a way to get to know someone without sounding like an investigative journalist. Although things often come back to veganism in social settings when food is involved, this upbeat attitude will help you feel more connected to other guests after already establishing common ground with them. Once people get to know you, they’ll see their worries were misplaced.
5. Anticipate certain questions
Although curious omnivores will throw you a curveball question every now and then, many people who are new to vegan concepts will ask similar questions. Think about the questions you are likely to receive at a party, and put some thought into the answers you want to give. Party-goers are likely to ask why you went vegan, how you get your protein, and whether it was really hard to give up cheese or bacon. You also never know when you’ll inspire someone to want to give the vegan lifestyle a try, so know some quick and easy resources that can help them get started.
6. Don’t stress over one person in a crowd
For some reason we’ll never understand, some people love arguing with vegans. To counter these combative partiers, bring along something (or someone) that helps you keep your cool whenever you encounter such a person. Remember: the less reactive you are, the less satisfaction a bully can take in their own bad behavior. Also, remind yourself that most guests at the party are like you—they’re out to have a good time and celebrate the holidays. You deserve a safe space for your enjoyment, so don’t let worries about others’ reactions stop you from having a jolly time from now through the new year.
Robin Raven is the author of Santa’s First Vegan Christmas.