Surviving the Chanukah-Christmas Holidays as a Vegan

Traditional ways of celebrating Christmas and Chanukah aren’t exactly vegan friendly. The extensive use of animals for food, clothing, and gifts can make the holiday season seem daunting for inexperienced vegans.

Moving into my twelfth year of veganism, I have some tricks up my sleeve for not only surviving the holiday season, but for making it a magical experience.

If you are feeling daunted as we approach the holidays, here are four top tips that might help to see you through:

Happily Lead by example: Natalie and her daughter Malia celebrating the holidays – vegan style

1. Happily lead by example

People are less hostile and more open to try things if their impression of veganism is a person who is happy-go-lucky and well-balanced.

The holiday season is usually a very important time for family; many families who don’t get together often will make a special effort to enjoy Christmas lunch or Chanukah dinner together. This is NOT the time to preach about the dead turkey on the table, or how gross it is to eat all the “chicken periods” in the latkes.

It is time to prove that veganism is easy, tasty, and peaceful. As upsetting as it can be to see everyone chowing down on ham or turkey, you won’t be recruiting any new vegans by causing drama and being angry at the dinner table. From experience, I can say that being passively informative gets you much further when it comes to the holiday season.

2. Be prepared with food

Make sure there is abundant well-presented vegan food you can eat and share to show how beautiful, varied, and delicious vegan food is!

I cannot stress how important it is to make sure that you make or bring vegan alternatives to functions and celebrations. I say this because food is often the main deterrent for would-be vegans; they cannot imagine not eating doughnuts at Chanukah or fruit cake with brandied custard at Christmas. It is amazing how impressed people are when they realise those incredible Christmas cookies have no butter in them or those Sufganiot are eggless. Exposure to the BEST vegan food opens people’s minds and hearts.

Vegan Chanukah Doughnuts: if you can’t make them yourself – Source them externally!

Make sure your salads are colourful, your main meals hearty, and your desserts wickedly decadent! Show people that they can and get vegan alternatives to family favourites and traditional foods. Source them externally if they are not possible to make. (Turns out I am terrible at making doughnuts, so I found a vegan bakery that does make them – you CANNOT tell!) It works a charm, peacefully (and deliciously) proving a very valuable point.

3. Be informative and polite regarding gifts

Remember that people who give you gifts mean well, and I imagine would like to give you a gift you can enjoy.

It can be awkward when someone gives you or your child a bag of milk chocolate or a brand new leather bag. In these instances, you can:

  • Be informative and polite regarding gifts
    Politely accept and then exchange in the shop or re-gift to a non-vegan who may appreciate these things.
  • Politely explain that, unfortunately, we cannot use these items, as they contain <insert animal product>.

I prefer the second: by accepting, it is more likely to happen again (creating more economical demand for the animal product at hand and more awkwardness for you). Furthermore, by re-gifting, you are displaying to the new receiver of the gift that you are ok with these products, creating more confusion. Honesty is definitely the best policy – but be polite.

4. Make it your own

Embrace the holiday season as the perfect time to show people how vegans live and why we do what we do!

Although it can be challenging at times, vegans have ample opportunity to create new, positive traditions in the holidays spirit, and show-off our lifestyle at the social gatherings provided by the festive season.

For my family, this time of the year does not just mark Christmas or Chanukah – it is Christmukah, where we roll the very best bits of our cultures into one giant celebration. Our festivities are highlighted by the magic of Santa with gifts galore, and we indulge ourselves in latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (doughnuts) while playing dreidel games. My two daughters, Leilani and Malia, must be the luckiest girls in the world!

In essence, holidays are about togetherness. It is important to be true to what we believe is right so that hopefully – eventually – these holidays will be cruelty-free and happy for all the creatures that we share this earth with. Happy holidays to one and all! 

Natalie Cunningham

Writter & Reviewer

Vegan Super Mum Columnist

My name is Natalie Cunningham and I am from Melbourne, Australia. I am a mum of two beautiful girls, Leilani and Malia and my husband is Robert. We are a vegan family – I have been vegan for over 10 years now, Robert for 3 years and our children have been vegan since birth. I am the vice president and one of the founders of Vegan Parents Australia – an organisation dedicated to bringing vegan families together for moral support and friendships and to mainstream veganism by dispelling the myths that it is dangerous for children to be vegan, and that it is in fact easy and healthy!

More about Natalie

Check out Natalie’s co-founded organization – Vegan Parents Australia

Check out Natalie's Vegan Family blog - The Veggiebacons