Holidays can be difficult for vegans, but no day presents as many problems as Thanksgiving. Sure, this food-filled Thursday is meant to be a celebration of things for which we are thankful, but once you go vegan, the idea of sitting around a table staring at a dead bird doesn’t sound so gracious. Some vegans avoid this exploitation by celebrating Thanksgiving alone, but being away from family and friends is no fun, which creates a dilemma for vegans: suffer or get tough. Naturally, we’ve chosen the latter, and in doing so have found seven ways to reclaim Thanksgiving as a day we look forward to. Here’s how we’ll be surviving Thanksgiving this year and all the years to come.
1. Bring your own food
No matter what your host told you about them supplying plenty of vegan options for you, bringing some of your own dishes never hurts. Your hosts might initially side-eye you for not following their directions, but bringing your own food allows you to take control of what you eat and how much you shovel onto your plate. That said, don’t be surprised if your relatives prefer your favorite lentils dish to whatever they brought.
2. Leave your activism (and your judgment) at home
Similar to anything else, activism has to be calculated to be as effective as it can possibly be, and sitting around a holiday table with friends and family is not the place for informing people of the world’s horrors. The same way most business deals are done outside of business hours, your activism should be saved for the right situations for maximum effectiveness. Unless you were raised vegan from birth, and never swayed, you were once in the same seat your family and friends are in now. Think about how you would have responded to being or feeling attacked. Would you have listened intently and changed that day, or labeled them annoying and judgmental and vowed never to be like them? Just like a vampire can come inside of a home they’re invited to, people will listen to something only if they’re interested.
3. Change the angle
We’re not talking about the angle of the conversation or even the TV—we’re talking about the angle of the turkey on the table. A Thanksgiving feast is comprised of a lot of food, so asking your host to arrange the table so that the carcass is out of sight can make the situation tolerable.
4. Get spotlight-ready
Every Thanksgiving, like clockwork, vegans get a barrage of questions from people about our lifestyles. Generally, these questions aren’t malicious: they’re questions the uninformed have about veganism, so it’s best to be ready to answer them as accurately and patiently as possible.
5. Throw a party
Just can’t bear another holiday dinner in which a dead animal is the centerpiece? If so, we suggest hosting (or co-hosting) your own Thanksgiving celebration. Then, you’re totally in charge! You can customize it to your exact specifications, remove all of the guesswork, and create a plant-based utopia.
6. Hold the wall
Yup, this is a Game Of Thrones reference, but it might be the most important tip. You have to be able to hold down your vegan wall, which translates to you being able to show pride, confidence, and conviction in the eyes and presence of people who might think you’re insane because you aren’t partaking in Thanksgiving in the traditional sense. You’ll be the measuring stick as to what veganism is to many people, so if you make it look hard, super inconvenient, or something anything other than a normal, everyday thing, then that’s what it’ll seem to them. To remedy this, show them your best side and be a lion of a vegan.
7. Don’t let your loud uncle get to you
We all have that uncle who’s never amounted to much in his life, yet he’s the loudest person at the table … especially when the eggnog starts flowing. He’s definitely going to be there, and when he finds out you’re vegan, he is going to test your patience. Know that his insensitive words are coming, and don’t let him get to you. Instead, calmly explain your stance until some other topic grabs his attention—or he passes out from drinking too much.
Gerry Warren is the philosophy-loving, travel-itching, co-founder of Vegr. Alex Moller is an ardent rock climber, obsessed foodie, and frequent meditator, and is the other co-founder of Vegr.
Photo credit: Kate Lewis