The holidays. Is this truly the most wonderful time of the year?
Does the prospect of spending time with your meat-guzzling family, shopping for presents when you know that no one will ever appreciate that they were carefully selected for their cruelty-free-ness, returning wool sweaters from your Aunt Ida, and listening to people blather on about “peace on earth” while they’re mindlessly contributing to hideous suffering, make your holidays bluer than Elvis’s?
Well, get over yourself. The holidays are supposed to be fun (dammit!), and you are more deserving of a little joy than anyone. So suck it up. It’s time to have fun, whether you want to or not.
The other thing about the holidays is that they are a time when a lot of people take a moment to reflect, be a bit more mindful, and try to be, just, better. Which makes Chrismahanusolstikwanzaka one huge activist opportunity.
First of all, there’s leafleting. There is no time of year when there are more people on the streets, and no time when they are more open to messages of compassion (at least some of them). They are watching heartwarming movies and singing about peace on earth. They are primed. You need to go get them!
If you are nervous about leafleting, remember, the first leaflet is the hardest. We guarantee that the first person who takes one from you and looks satisfied or interested will be well worth the painful anticipation you had prior to leafleting. Striking at the Roots, by Mark Hawthorne, has some great leafleting advice in it. Before the end of the year, commit to leafleting for 15 minutes. You’ll be glad you did (and you might even find you actually like it, and you’ll stay out there for longer).
Next, let’s think about your Christmas office party (or school party, or whatever party). One of our favorite Christmas office parties is the one in the film Desk Set, with Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Everyone got drunk on champagne and acted somewhat, but not too, inappropriately. Maybe your office party is a hoot, like that one.Or maybe your office party is just another holiday burden where you’re forced to spend time talking to people you try to avoid during the rest of the year.
Regardless, it’s a huge opportunity for food activism that can’t be passed up. In fact, even if you don’t have a party to bring food to, bringing treats to share is considered totally normal behavior during the holidays. It’s up to you to make sure it’s also an opportunity for people to learn a bit about vegan food.
Of course, the first rule in turning this into activism, rather than just your way of being nice — and this may seem obvious — is to make sure they know it’s vegan. Your goal isn’t just to get them to enjoy your cooking, it’s to enlighten them about the deliciousness of compassion. One nice touch is to print out the recipe (which you want to keep pretty simple) and leave it right by the goodies. Even better, leave out some brochures, such as “25 Reasons to Try Vegetarian” from Mercy for Animals or “Compassionate Choices” from Vegan Outreach.
Tipping can present another opportunity for some holiday vegan outreach. Whenever you have to, or just want to, give a special holiday tip to someone — your super, your hairdresser, your babysitter, whoever — make sure you accompany it with some delicious vegan baked goods (and make sure they know it’s vegan!).
Another great form of changemaking around the holidays is to engage kids in some vegan fun. Whether you are just having a few of your kids’ friends over to your house, or maybe you want to organize a formal event at your local community center or church or synagogue, or perhaps your nieces and nephews are visiting, you want to think seriously about how to find opportunities to do some cooking with kids. A cooking class — teaching kids how to make healthy, vegan holiday meals — is not only a good time, but can get kids thinking, and talking, about why we shouldn’t have animals on our holiday tables, or any other tables (other than our dog, Rose, of course, who occasionally likes to climb up on the table).
Next, think about family get-togethers. If you can’t rely on your Aunt Ida, or whoever else is hosting the family meal, to supply you with something to eat, you of course need to bring your own. And I know you’re busy, and it’s a pain, but do yourself a favor and really go out of your way to make sure you bring something delicious, so that you aren’t sitting there with second best. And make sure you bring dessert too. Oh, and bring a lot, because others are going to want to try it too (which is both gratifying and annoying at the same time).
During that get-together, if your family wants to talk about veganism in a respectful way, that’s great. If not, don’t let that ruin your day. One thing to remember is that recruiting your family to veganism is not any more important than recruiting anyone else. The animals don’t care whether it’s your Aunt Ida who decided not to eat them, or some stranger you’ll never see again. It may matter more to you when it’s family, but that’s just your ego getting in the way. So if your family is hopeless, just use that as an impetus to do some leafleting over the next few days.
When you’re ready, you might also choose to be the host of the holiday dinner at your own house — obviously making it a completely vegan meal. If you’re afraid that no one will come, have it during the holiday season, not on the actual day. There’s all sorts of subsidiary holiday get-togethers that you can get people to come to, like tree-trimming parties, and dreidel parties, and Three Kings Day. And hey, Hanukkah lasts for 8 days! Remember, while you might want to have some holiday festivities for your vegan friends — and you certainly should — that’s fun, but it’s not activism. You need some aspiring vegans to be there in order to make change.
Another way to spread the word about food around the holidays is through blogging. If you have a blog, or if you want to start one, you can send it to your friends, family, and online circles, and ask them to subscribe. Then, you can create a holiday challenge where you ask them to try one of your holiday recipes. Or you can ask them to give you the gift of going vegan for a day, or week, or a month. Then provide guidance and advice on your blog, and even create a community via the comments section. Invite all the people in your life who are participating in your challenge to make their voices heard.
Before we close, we just want to emphasize, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, that the holidays are not something that vegans should be just surviving. We n
eed to own them. Just as everyone else — from churches and synagogues, to Walmart, to Bergdorf’s, to the Grinch, to Charlie Brown, to your mom, to Aunt Ida, to everyone else — has their 2 cents to offer about what this season is all about, you need to spread your message. Because no one around knows more about what the holidays are really about than you do.
So here’s to you.
And to getting dead birds off the table
And to liberating reindeer,
And to soy candles in the Menorah,
And vegan cookies and almond milk for a healthy and happy Santa,
And to Peace — and we actually really mean Peace — on Earth.