Surviving the Big Holiday Meal as a Vegan

December 24, 2008

It’s Christmas Eve day here, and I’m hanging out at Stately AngelA Manor waiting for the Big Family Dinner tonight.

You may or may not celebrate around this particular holiday, but chances are you’ve got one or two occasions your life that come up from time to time where you’ve got to go to a big social gathering involving food where the majority of the people there eat meat.

I’m not going to talk about restaurants today; this is all about the Big Dinner at someone’s home, and how you can make it a little more bearable.

First of all, if you’ve got the chance to bring food, do that. The trick here is to make sure you clear it with the host first. Don’t just show up with a casserole, it wrecks whatever plans your host has made and comes off as pretty much insulting.

If you’ve got some lead time, say, around the time of the invite, just ask if you can bring anything. (Oh, and it’s probably also a good time to make sure your host knows that you’re vegan.) In a lot of cases, this is going to be really helpful.

If you end up bringing food, bring twice as much as you’re planning on eating. Don’t bring enough for everyone to have a full meal – that’ll just replace the host’s cooking, which would be a faux pas, but make sure you’ve got enough so if someone’s interested they can give it a try. You never know, maybe someone else at the table is a closet vegan who hasn’t heard this advice yet.

Don’t expect that you’ll be converting anyone at this dinner. The key messages you’ll be delivering are that vegans eat tasty food, and social gatherings aren’t a big hassle. If someone wants the recipe, get their email address and send it to them, along with maybe a few other links, but make them links to recipe sites. Don’t do the strong sell on veganism, just get them more interested. You can follow up later with something like a link to the Veggie Challenge, where people can get help going meat free for a week.

If you can’t bring food, another thing you can do is eat something light before you go. It’s the holidays, there are a lot of gatherings going on, and it’s not out of the ordinary to have back to back meals, so if you explain that you’re actually just having the salad because you’re still stuffed from lunch, or even that you’re trying to cut back on the holiday weight gain, it’s not that unusual.

When you’re eating, don’t get dragged into a debate about veganism. A holiday meal is probably the absolutely worst time to try to convert someone to a plant based diet, there are way too many emotional ties to food and tradition going on and people can’t imagine breaking any of them most of the time, let alone while the food’s right in front of them. Just be polite, and say you don’t want to get into it here, but if they want to talk about it later on (maybe at your local veg restaurant…), that’s cool.

Finally, a quick reminder that if you want to bring some wine over to the get together, we’ve got hundreds of listings for vegan-friendly alcohol over at

Holiday meals can be a bit of a pain, but with a little bit of planning and knowledge of what you’re getting yourself into, they can work out alright. Hopefully these quick tips help. What else are you doing to make the Big Holiday Meal more fun?

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