Have you ever wondered why human existence is so deeply rooted in tradition? 

We spend a lot of time reflecting on our most precious memories, and then attempt to relive them throughout our lives as much as possible. That’s exactly what tradition means to me – routinely celebrating the things that are most important to me and my family.

The Christmas holidays are something that every family uniquely develops over a lifetime. Some traditions are passed down from generation to generation, while others are introduced much later in order to accommodate all kinds of life changes. Think back to your earliest childhood memory of Christmas, and compare it to what you’re expecting this year. It’s pretty crazy how tradition begins to evolve as the years go on.

It’s important to think about the holidays from a critical perspective. There are so many components that shape the Christmas season and build our expectations. Too often we focus on doing a million things to communicate our feelings, when getting back to the basics could actually spur more meaningful moments and memories. I think it’s time to embrace simplicity and beauty that the Christmas holidays should encompass.

My parents have always been big givers. I was never able to find hidden gifts leading up to the big day, but somehow on Christmas morning, the living room was piled high with presents. The mystery behind this phenomenon taught me to continue believing in the magic of Santa Claus, and the power behind a loving family.

My Mom woke up early every Christmas morning to start prepping for the feast and festivities, but over the last few years we have begun to share the load with her. Creating such an eventful day is certainly draining for just one person to take on. We always sit down to a delicious brunch, and then ease into an afternoon spent opening gifts with each other. With family surrounding, our holiday dinner would fill the entire table, and provide leftovers for a week.

When I was old enough to start making my own money, I was excited about finally being able to buy gifts for my family. I always attempted to keep things even, and would spend more than my budget allowed. Even if I could’ve saved that money for something else, there was something so magical about expressing my feelings through gift giving. It’s always worth the spend when you get to see the looks on everyone’s faces when they open the presents that you’ve spent so much effort selecting. 

Whether you’re most excited about delicious food, extravagant gifts, or a warm night spent around a roaring fire, there’s something about Christmas that speaks to everyone. 

So how does a vegan lifestyle impact familial traditions?

Christmas is something that I look forward to, but this year, I’m starting to see things a little differently. Yes, we’re all aware of the mass consumerism, and the debts that carry into early Spring, but what happens when you try to change holiday tradition completely? This may seem problematic, but I’m here to share some celebratory changes that will have you reminiscing of simpler times.

I’ve compiled a list of 5 easy ways to incorporate veganism into the holidays, and I sincerely hope that it will spur some changes within your own family circle this year.

1) Bring a Vegan Dish to Dinner

Traditional holiday food is unfortunately packed full of animal products. Turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, broccoli casserole – and don’t even get me started on the dessert menu. Since this is my first Christmas as a vegan, I’ve been thinking a lot about alternatives to share with my family. It’s all about those small changes.

The recipes that I create every week demonstrate just how easy it is to remove animal products from your favorite dishes. Although my family will certainly not be interested in trying a Tofurkey this Christmas, I will definitely be challenging their taste buds with some vegan culinary creations. An event like Christmas actually gives you the perfect opportunity to share some new ideas with your family.

I feel like a lot of vegans end up dreading the holidays. When you have no control over what traditional food your family will be eating, you might prefer to sit at another table in order to resist temptation. Let’s not forget that millions of turkeys are born and raised solely for the purpose feeding families across the country for this one special day of the year. It’s actually really ironic that we celebrate the life of our family at Christmas, while simultaneously ending the life of another. 

Christmas day is all about love, giving, and happiness, so perhaps it’s time to start thinking more consciously about our food sources and choices during this celebratory time of year too. 

If your family members are true meat lovers, try introducing a hearty vegan dish such as, stuffed portobello mushrooms, vegan chili, or vegan mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy. These options are just as filling and delicious, with no guilt attached. Also, if you choose to replace a non-vegan favorite, you guarantee that most or all of your family members will try it, and be shocked at how easy it is to substitute traditional animal-based ingredients.

The biggest take away from this point is for you to take the lead this season. 

Any Mom or Dad would be happy to have help in the kitchen, so offering to bring a dish, or to help with cooking the entire holiday feast will be a welcome change. This is another way for you to show how much you care, and to create new memories with your family.

Start a new delicious tradition, and challenge another family member to try recreating your recipe next year.

2) Donate to Charity Instead of Buying Gifts

Not sure what to get your family for Christmas this year? Yes, it’s true that most of us don’t need or want anything when Christmas roles around, but it’s not a good feeling to see absolutely no gifts under the tree. As we get older, our needs change, our relationships become deeper, and our family focus evolves. In most cases, you shouldn’t need to put a dollar amount on your feelings, especially if you’re at an adult stage in your life.

If you’re feeling a bit stumped, I highly suggest doing some research regarding animal charities. There are so many organizations out there to choose from, so you should have no problem finding a suitable match for any picky family member. The best part about making a donation, is that you feel literally no guilt about the amount that you give. Every little bit counts when it comes to protecting and loving animals.

You should always check to make sure that the charity designates all funds donated to the cause. Whether that means you donate to a shelter, local farm sanctuary, or to an activist group, the money should always go to helping the animals that are in need. If you’re lucky enough to find a shelter or sanctuary that’s close by, ask if you can take a tour or go for a visit. You can get a lot of perspective this way.

A donation is a gift that family members typically don’t expect. It will not accumulate dust, get stored in the basement, or be thrown out after a couple of years. You are linking your family to a specific moment in time, to an animal, and to a cause that is much great than you. By relating donations and charity to Christmas, you are teaching others around you that giving does not always have to be a materialistic act.

By taking the lead in generosity, you can inspire a new tradition for the years to come. Make the donation personal, and have the charity group direct their thanks to a specific family member. Donating on behalf of someone is a great way to create those warm and fuzzy feelings inside. 

3) Sponsor an Animal in Need 

Depending on the charities that you come across, you may have the option to sponsor a specific animal, instead of just making a donation. Some of these places guarantee that 100% of your money will go to supporting the animal that you choose. Call or email the team to clarify any of these details if you’re feeling unsure. 

These programs also allow you to choose between a one time annual sponsorship amount, or to donate regularly on a monthly basis for convenience and flexibility. If you’re having a hard time making a selection, ask the team if they can recommend a companion who needs a bit more love this year than the others. If you subscribe to a sponsorship, the organization will provide you with pictures, and a bio for the animal that you have chosen. This is a great thing to share with your family.

The animals in these sanctuaries each have such a powerful story to tell. If you’re aware of factory farm practices, you know that rescuing these animals can free them from a horrible prison and give them a second chance at life. When they’re just at the end of the line, the brave and compassionate step in to help. 

If you’re concerned about the animals who have yet to be saved, remember that your support provides financial stability so that the sanctuary workers can continue to help other animals too. If you don’t support these activists, you can never expect to see or be apart of these changes.

I think that the best part about sponsoring an animal is that your family will have a name and face to remember all year. If those around you are still having trouble making the connection between “friends, not food”, a gift like this could really help them to reflect on their choices.

If you have the financial stability, I would definitely recommend sponsoring an animal on your own too. It’s such an amazing feeling to think about that special animal everyday, and be proud of yourself for doing everything that you can to help.

4) Educate Your Family & Friends Through Love and Spirit

Take the opportunity to teach your family about the vegan lifestyle this Christmas. 

Although they are already aware of what you eat, how you feel, and what you preach, they might not understand why you feel the way you do.

Instead of always forcing your opinions onto others, or allowing your passion to get the better of you, take some time to show how your love goes beyond the holiday season. You love all beings, and you want nothing more than fairness, equality, and compassion for all. If Christmas isn’t a good time to discuss this topic in a civil way, I don’t know what season is.

Teach your family about how you made the vegan dish that you brought to dinner, and the health benefits included in it. Share a few recipes that will inspire them to try something new. Tell your family a story about the sanctuary that you visited, and what good has come of your support. Invite them to volunteer with you during your next visit so that they can share an experience with you, and even meet some of the animals. Help them to understand that it is possible to have a positive effect on the world, by opening yourself up to change. 

Don’t exclude yourself from the from the traditional Christmas activities just because your feelings have altered. Be willing, open, and inclusive, especially if you hope to influence their feelings and thoughts.

If you can communicate your passion and happiness when it comes to living your lifestyle to the fullest, I can guarantee that they will want to know and learn more. Your family will remember what you’ve taught them, and next year it won’t seem quite so abstract. Use your intelligence and charisma to inspire them.

5) Reflect on Your Accomplishments & Be Thankful For Everything That You Have

You should leave time to reflect on your vegan journey at Christmas, especially when you’re around people that you love. Whether you’ve been vegan for a week, a month, or a year, never underestimate the significant changes that you have gone through on every level. Approaching the new year always forces us to look back and remember the most prominent moments of the past year, and to think about how they will influence the months ahead. 

What will you continue to strive for? What are you most proud of? Was there something that you never got around to doing?

I truly believe that living a vegan lifestyle is my biggest accomplishment to date. I have never felt so content, and satisfied in all my life. A lot of people that I know have become inspired to make their own changes, and I think that is amazing. Accomplishment can be measured by something as simple as creating a domino effect, and watching those around you react to your opinions and ideas. Make sure that you express your appreciation to others for their support, after all, we must rely on each other if we hope to see the positive momentum continue.

You should have plenty to say thank you for this Christmas. I am so thankful for whatever force in the universe pointed me in the direction that I’m moving in. It has improved my quality of life so much – mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Every single choice that I make has a direct effect on the world and all of its inhabitants, so I plan to continue living a conscious lifestyle.

Be thankful that you have the freedom of choice. Be thankful that you have the ability to think outside of the box. Be thankful for the lives that you have saved, and for that ones that you will continue to save. Above all else, be thankful for the amount of love that you have and spread to all beings.

Tradition will always be a significant part of our lives, so continue to let it evolve into a compassionate and kind practice. Let go of the holiday stress, and remember that making these small changes can have an enormous impact on the world and your family. 

I Wish You a Vegan Christmas, and a Plant-Based New Year! 

Published by Tasha Blake