“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Coming together with family and friends, giving and receiving gifts, making resolutions for the New Year and – if you are anything like my family – eating and drinking until we are positively stuffed!
When I first became vegan, I felt sad and stressed around the holidays. I didn’t understand how everyone could continue to joyously celebrate and carry out traditions that were unkind to animals in so many ways. Over the last few years, I have come up with some ways to veganize Christmas and New Year’s so that I can still enjoy the holiday season; so in the holiday spirit, I thought I’d share these traditions with you, in the hope that you can use them to have a fun and cruelty-free holiday too!
1. Decorate your house and tree with veganism in mind
Decorating the Christmas tree and house or apartment is one of my favorite parts of the whole holiday season. It’s easy to make this experience vegan-friendly, because it (usually) doesn’t revolve around a meal or gifts.
Surprise your family with a vegan themed ornament, or create your own festive decorations that honor animals to hang around the house.
Whilst decorating, I like to set the mood with holiday music and treats. This is a great time to “test drive” a new vegan dessert recipe you’re thinking of serving at Christmas, or try a new vegan holiday drink.
2. Plan out your day
Where will Christmas be this year, at your house or someone else’s? If you are a guest, does the host know that you are vegan? Will the meal be vegan, vegetarian or neither? Knowing all the details and preparing yourself mentally can help make for a smooth Christmas.
I have found that coming up with a game plan as a family ensures a happier and less stressful day for all. Start an e-mail thread or Google Doc where everyone can contribute ideas for the menu and activities. Not only will you personally feel good knowing you are adding vegan touches to the festivities, but this way everyone gets to bring their own special ideas to the day as well.
3. Shop for vegan-friendly presents
Whether you like to shop for a gift for everyone, or your family has a Secret Santa tradition, there is a vegan-friendly present out there for everybody!
Purchase a membership to a farm sanctuary or sponsor a farm animal in a loved one’s name. If a family member is thinking of adopting a companion animal, give a gift certificate to the local shelter or humane society. Buy cruelty-free cosmetics, lotions, candles, or clothing. Give the youngsters of the family books, movies, or toys, with positive animal messages. Purchase or create a vegan cookbook for a family member that has enjoyed many of your recipes. Find a vegetarian or vegan restaurant where your loved ones live and treat them to a gift certificate. Bake your own vegan treats for family members with a sweet tooth. Buy vegan chocolates, clothing or other merchandise from an animal welfare organization’s gift shop.
A new tradition that my mom started is ordering vegan chocolate caramels from Farm Sanctuary. Your loved ones can enjoy a decadent treat while helping farm animals – a win-win!
4. Prepare a vegan Christmas menu
Depending on your family’s traditions, and your preferences for food, some like to keep menu items very traditional (i.e. vegan “ham”, mashed potatoes, pudding, and fruit cake). I personally like to shake things up and try new things each year. For instance, last year I brought a vegan gnocchi dish and chocolate peanut butter balls.
Some of my favorite borrowed recipes include:
Don’t forget beverages can be delicious, too. Offer to bring vegan hot chocolate for the kiddos or supply the fixings for a vegan Hot Toddy. If you prefer alcohol-free drinks, prepare a tasty vegan fruit punch or mocktails for all to enjoy.
For more vegan food inspiration, feel free to check out The Vegan Woman’s recipes section.
5. Add a special touch
Think of a way to add your own special touch to the holidays. There are so many ways to personalize Christmas with cruelty-free finishing touches that everyone can enjoy!
Come up with a music playlist so that your family has some great background tunes. Get lots of vegan candies and pass them around to the kids. Treat everyone to a vegan liquor, or if you’re not hosting, bring a vegan bottle of wine, vegan chocolates, or a holiday playlist that you think your host would enjoy.
6. Plan fun activities that don’t revolve around food
Some of my favorite traditions and holiday memories don’t include food at all. (Not to say that you can’t snack while enjoying these activities!)
Another favorite pastime is watching holiday movies with everyone. This is also a fun tradition for Christmas Eve, or New Year’s Eve, if you are staying in. Some of my favorites are Home Alone, Love Actually, Elf, and It’s a Wonderful Life. For more kid-friendly options, try Frozen, A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Santa Clause, and Polar Express.
7. Volunteer at an animal shelter or visit a sanctuary
Get your family on board for a fun day out in the holiday spirit with a special meaning.
Pick a day around the holidays where your family or friends are available and volunteer together at a shelter or visit animals at a farm sanctuary. This activity will allow you to bond, working side by side doing something meaningful, and it will warm everyone’s hearts to be around animals and spreading the Christmas love! You might find everyone enjoys themselves so much it could even become a new Christmas tradition for you.
8. Make cruelty-free New Year’s plans
Whether you plan to go out on the town or like to stay in on New Year’s Eve; whether you will be with a big group of people or a smaller group, plan ahead to be sure you have all of the cruelty-free things you need to celebrate.
If you plan to go out for the evening, enjoy your vegan dinner before you go out, or make a reservation at a vegan or vegan-friendly restaurant ahead of time. If you are staying in or entertaining, come up with a tasty vegan dinner menu with some awesome vegan appetizers. Find a vegan champagne and play some fun board games!
Don’t forget to have some yummy vegan breakfast fixings in your house for New Year’s Day!
9. Pick a New Year’s resolution that aligns with your values
When you’re coming up with your resolution(s) for the New Year, why not choose a vegan focus? Set goals for healthier eating, or challenge yourself to use all vegan-friendly products, cosmetics, clothing, and other items this year. Design an exercise plan for yourself, plan a vegan vacation, or purchase a membership to a meaningful vegan organization. There are countless ways to veganize your New Year’s resolutions – come up with a fun and creative one that works best for you!
10. Help a friend or a family member to go vegan
Do you have friends or family members who are interested in going vegan? The New Year is a great time to make a fresh start with compassionate, healthy and positive decisions. Why not suggest a vegan program to assist them in attempting to go vegan in the New Year? Send them a link to a free online program like the 22+ Vegan Challenge or purchase a program or consultation to help set them off to on their new beginning in the most positive way!
One more tip: keep track of what worked and what didn’t
Maybe it’s just me, but by the time the holiday season rolls around each year, I inevitably find myself scrambling for recipe, gift or planning ideas. Keep a holiday journal for yourself so that next year you can remember what was successful, and what didn’t go over so well. Write down your New Year’s resolution, and keep track of how it goes for you. This way, you will hopefully feel even more prepared and confident to veganize your Christmas and New Year’s traditions next year!
Wishing a Happy Holiday and Happy New Year to you and your loved ones.