Have a Compassionate Thanksgiving

Have a Compassionate Thanksgiving

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As with many people, this is my favorite time of the year. Decorating, cooking & baking, and family gatherings have provided many wonderful memories over the years. I have a large family, so every gathering seemed like a family reunion. This time of the year can bring a lot of stress – planning, preparing, and creating the perfect day can bring about many anxieties in even the most Zen-like person.

Being a vegan in an omnivore family brings a whole new set of anxieties. Thanksgiving can prompt questions like what can you eat, why can’t you eat that, and what is a vegan? It can be difficult not to take these discussions personally. At first, when asked these questions, I was usually in defense mode. But as my vegan lifestyle became more resolute, I loosened up and realized that I wanted my family to enjoy all of the things that I do. I also realized these questions were not forms of personal attacks. They were questions of curiosity and concern.  I know most of my family will not change their lifestyle, but it doesn’t mean that they aren’t willing to try and accept new things.

Instead of cooking meals only for Steve and me, I prepared enough for everyone and let them decide on their own that vegan-friendly food is not that unusual. This past year, I made it a mission to expand my cooking horizon and try new recipes several times per week.  I want to create a variety of dishes to where they would say, “Wow! That’s vegan?” Even with that, we all eat fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts, and beans. Vegans just refrain from eating animal products. In reality, there isn’t much of a difference in what we eat. Yes, we make and eat vegan-friendly meat and cheese, but anyone can eat those items – they aren’t just for vegans. 

Here are few things I learned to make any family gathering or holiday less stressful:

  • Answer their questions openly and honestly.
  • Bring or make food that you truly enjoy and want to share with your family and friends. Food can be a creative outlet and a way to express your love. Be passionate about what you make.
  • Be a role model for your cause. You may think you are not making an impression or impact, but you are. 
  • Don’t judge. I remember before I became a vegetarian and then a vegan, I had the same questions and concerns. Remember, they are questions out of curiosity, concern, and love. Even the questions from your Uncle who will start making fun of your new choices. He is just trying to understand.

Above all, remember that the holidays are about enjoying the company of your family and friends, supporting loved ones in good and bad times, and building relationships. Relax, be yourself, and have fun!

Nuggets of Compassion
It’s estimated that nearly 46 million turkeys are farmed and killed for Thanksgiving dinner each year. They are forced to live in extremely cramped buildings, never seeing daylight or having fresh air. Farm Sanctuary states, “The incredible stress of being overcrowded on factory farms can cause turkeys to injure each other with sharp beaks and toes. Rather than give the birds more space, producers commonly address the issue by cutting off portions of turkeys’ beaks and toes with shears, a hot blade, or a high-voltage electrical current. These painful mutilations, which are inflicted on newly hatched baby turkeys, are unaccompanied by any pain relief or anesthetic.” 
Instead of celebrating Thanksgiving by cooking a turkey this year, celebrate life by trying one of the many animal-friendly Thanksgiving meals below! 

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