A day of giving thanks, a day of spending time with loved ones and a day of gathering around a large cooked turkey as a dinner centerpiece. The first two will appeal to vegans and vegetarians, but that last part can be a serious downer. It is not uncommon for ethical eaters to feel sadness and helplessness when Thanksgiving rolls around—especially if they are invited to a meal where an animal is served as the main course.
Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be a super-stressful time, however. Preparing for the holiday is essential and there are several steps that can be taken early. Follow these suggestions and Tofurky Day will be a breeze.
1) Be honest with yourself about what you can handle
Being around people enjoying the taste of meat can be difficult for veg folks—no matter how long they’ve elected to keep animals off of their own plates. Ask yourself what you can manage in terms of exposure to “traditional” Thanksgiving foods and any suspected commentary from family members about your lifestyle. It is okay to decide that it is not worth attending an event because your mental wellness might suffer.
2) Decide whether to inform others of how you feel or not
You also have the right to be as open about your feelings (or as closed) as you wish. Some people may elect to give a simple explanation about why they are uncomfortable being at a meal centered around the body of an animal, others may choose to write a letter to close family, and others opt to not give an explanation and simply say “I will be unable to attend this year.”
3) Know where to find back-up support
Whether or not you are invited to a meat-centered meal, know where to find the people who’ve got your back. It could be Skyping with a long-distance friend you met at a VegFest, people in an online support group or a meet-up for local vegetarians who are in the same boat. Or you can retreat into the comfort zone of cuddling with your companion animals at the end of the night! Be aware of what you need in terms of support and where to find it as the holiday nears.
4) Bring delicious vegan dishes to your gathering
If you choose to attend a non-vegan Thanksgiving event, you have the option of bringing a dish or two that highlights how delicious plant-based comfort food can be. Always take hosts and hostesses up on the request to provide recipes for plant-based versions of family favorites, as well. Be sure to bring enough for everyone so veg-curious folks can give it a try.
5) Host your own Thanks-Living event
Not only is bringing a dish to someone else’s event an option, but you can also host your own holiday gathering! What are the most beloved dishes served at Thanksgiving? Stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries, green bean casserole, mac & cheese and—let us not forget the desserts – pumpkin pie, pecan pie, apple crisp… and the list goes on! All of these dishes, and more, can be easily veganized. Your guests won’t miss out on their favorite flavors and they’ll be able to say they are thankful they tried something new.
6) Channel your feelings into compassionate outlets
At the end of the holiday, make sure you have identified an outlet for your feelings—whatever they may be. If you are feeling frustrated and alone, consider donating time or money to a farmed animal sanctuary or other organization whose mission aligns with your ethics. If you are feeling warm and thankful, think of a way to use that energy in a positive way: get a jump on homemade holiday gifts, call up an old friend and schedule a coffee date, channel creativity into a project that will help make the world a more compassionate place. Make the most out of the holiday.