“A smart person knows what to say.  A wise person knows when to say it.” –Unknown

So….

The winter holidays are around the corner, and we know that this time of year brings a Santa’s Sack full of different emotions. Your emotions are being pulled in more directions than Santa’s Sleigh will be on Christmas Eve (ok, ok we’ll stop).

This is because, while you might love spending time with your family, you also know it might be inevitable that subjects on which you vehemently disagree with your family members will raise their naughty little heads, just in time to make opening any gift seem like a sack of coal (maybe we’re not done).

If you’re vegan and your family is not, this is especially true. You’re about to go watch the people that you love the most gnaw on the dead carcasses of animals that were tortured for their entire lives, in cages too small to turn around, with no hope of even feeling the warmth of the sun before having their throats slit while fully conscious, all in the name of love and kindness. WHAT THE F*CK. Right?! Right.

We understand. We’re about to do the same thing. But there are a few things to keep in mind before going into this weekend if you’re to be able to enjoy your time and also help your family to understand why you feel the way you do, the most of which is that being an asshole is the last thing that will get people (especially your closest friends and family) to agree with you. Also, nothing says “I’m a crazy af and so are all vegans” more than yelling, arguing or ruining the mood of the Holiday spirit. As unfortunate as it is, you have to look at it like this: animals need you to be as nice as possible to your family this holiday season. And for that reason, we’ve compiled a list of things to keep in mind/do over the holidays. Do these things, and not only will you have a much better time this holiday, but you will come much closer to having an entirely vegan holiday in the future.

#1:

Laugh as much as possible

Tell jokes! Laugh hard with that aunt/uncle/cousin/in law that you rarely see (that probably thinks you’re a weirdo because of the stuff you post on facebook). Make sure they understand that you aren’t going to make things awkward, so that they will be comfortable spending more time with you as the brief amount of time that you’re going to spend with them progresses.

**IMPORTANT** The importance of this statement is directly correlated with the amount of time that you spend (or lack thereof) with these family members the rest of the year. Meaning, the less time you spend with them, the more important this is. If your distant or not so close family feels that you are just as levelheaded and ripe with sense of humor as anyone else in the family, those intense or provocative things you post on fb will become more relevant to them, or at very least they will start reading past just the first few words.

*MAJOR KEY ALERT* IF THEY MAKE A JOKE ABOUT HOW DELICIOUS BACON IS…. LAUGH AT IT! Stomping off in anger/sadness, raising your voice, or turning sour in any way needs to be the absolute last thing on your list of possible responses. So much so that it never actually happens.

Be as positive and helpful and as kind as possible! This might mean cleaning the dishes, too.
Kill them with kindness folks. This one kind of goes along with #3, as well.

Be the freaking life of the party and be the person that everyone wants to hang out with.

#2

Only talk about your point of view if they bring it up

Although it is incredibly depressing that the animal holocaust is being celebrated by your family (probably people who talk about “loving” animals), it is so important to talk about almost anything BUT the animal holocaust. We love that you’re so fired up about ending animal suffering/saving the environment that it’s the one thing you want to talk about the most with the people that you love the most. We promise we understand.

It’s so hard not to talk about it, but it’s important to remember one crucial thing here: not everyone else is fired up about it. It’s the holidays, people are fired up about not being fired up. People work hard throughout the year. You may even have family members that work hard for other social issues like human rights, politics, or making the world a better place in other ways (other forms of activism) and they may be those people that you think are so close to being vegan, if they would just make the goddamn connection. But now is the time to which they’ve probably been looking forward for a while (months in some cases, depending on how active they are) to just let loose and not think about the evils and horrors of the world (most people in our society don’t think about these things so this is even more true for them).

Again, we get it. We have people in our family who claim to be “environmentalists” and/or really love their pets while also eating factory farmed meat, dairy and eggs. It’s insane, but this is the important thing:

They DO NOT want to hear about how what they’re doing is completely f’d. They want to drink apple cider or eggnog and talk about the latest babies in the family. The best way to make them mad and shut them off to your message is to bring it up at the wrong time, which is most of the time during the holidays. If they bring it up, offer them the quickest and briefest responses to their questions and then change the subject back to something you know they want to talk about.

Now then, there are the rare cases that people are genuinely curious about it because they have been giving it genuine consideration and have been waiting for this time to ask you. This is a great time to talk to them and we’re not advocating that you shut them down or refuse to talk to them, by all means, answer their questions and be thorough if they’re ready to hear it (one on one convos are the best case scenarios for this). What we are advocating is that you don’t talk about things that people aren’t ready to hear because they won’t hear it.

#3

If you’re going to say something, make it potent, humorous and change the subject quickly.

Ok so we’re going to get really really real right now. This is probably the hardest one. And by hardest we mean it takes the most tact and skill. We just touched on this briefly in #2 but we felt that it deserved it’s own number, because we do believe that this can be extremely powerful, but PLEASE be careful, because if you do it wrong, it can make it way worse for you (and animals).
Here’s an example of doing it wrong:

Uncle Tim: “So Nathan, you gonna eat this turkey leg?! Pretty sure the turkey was a vegan, so it should be ok for you to eat!” *chuckles while nudging a non-vegan family member with his elbow with pride*
Nathan (emotionally): “I can’t believe that you just said that! Don’t you know that turkeys have feeling just like dogs do?! How dare you say something to me like that, when you know I’m a vegan?! UGHHH! How am I the only person in this entire family who understands that animal torture is wrong?!”
Uncle Tim (and everyone else): “Whoa! Calm down, it was just a joke. Wow, vegans are crazy, glad I’m not one. Oh well, more turkey for me!”

Here’s another example of doing it wrong:

Uncle Tim: “So Nathan, you gonna eat this turkey leg?! Pretty sure the turkey was a vegan, so it should be ok for you to eat!” *chuckles while nudging a non-vegan family member with his elbow with pride*

Nathan (calmly): ……..blank stare….. “No Uncle Tim, I’m not going to eat that turkey leg, because that turkey leg is the result of a lifetime of pain and suffering, even on the most humane of farms and that turkey… Did. Not. Deserve to die. How would you feel if that was your dog or cat sitting on the table and we were just carving it up and eating it?”
Uncle Tim and everyone else: “Whoa! Calm down, it was just a joke.  Wow, vegans are crazy, glad I’m not one. Oh well, more turkey for me!”

Here’s an example of doing it right:

Uncle Tim: “So Nathan, you gonna eat this turkey leg?! Pretty sure the turkey was a vegan, so it should be ok for you to eat!” *chuckles while nudging a non-vegan family member with his elbow with pride*

Nathan (normally and jokingly with a smile on his face): That’s hilarious!! I would but I only eat dog legs!” *Laughs louder than everyone else* “Just kidding that’s really weird! But, so is eating a turkey leg!” *Laughs even louder* “Oh man, so how ‘bout them Cowboys?! Didn’t think we were gonna pull that last one off, but I’m sure glad we did!”

Uncle Tim: “Yeah I don’t eat dogs.” *Briefly makes [POTENTIALLY PROFOUND] connection between dogs and turkeys* “Yeah I think we might just make it past the first round of the playoffs this year.  We’re looking pretty good, kinda scared about having a rookie qb though.”
*Side note, it’s ok to let something like this slide if you can’t think of a witty comeback and just laugh it off and say “No thanks! Hahaha!”  You never know, this might be the point where someone who has been curious but doesn’t want to seem like the outsider, decides to start asking you the important questions, because you handled this situation with grace and tact.

#4

Let your actions speak louder than your words. BE KIND.

Listen, you have to understand that people are only going to take you seriously (especially your family) is if your lifestyle of kindness feels consistent with your treatment of people. The whole “I love animals more than people and so I’m pretty much sour towards everyone and I f*cking hate Christmas because of the animal holocaust” attitude makes everyone perceive you as a hypocrite and write you completely off. And guess what folks: perception is reality.

This tip basically wraps up the three tips mentioned above. Let everyone know that your message of kindness is based on the fact that you are actually kind. You must go out of your way sometimes to make sure people aren’t uncomfortable around you. When people are uncomfortable around you they will not listen to you. And the reverse is doubly true.  Even if it’s not a full blown conversation, and sometimes even if they are not consciously listening they are listening to your attitude, they are picking up on your actions, they are perceiving your kindness.

The animals need us to be kind. When we are kind to everyone around us, the animals win.

#5

MAKE DELICIOUS VEGAN FOOD

This one can be the best one, or most powerful we should say. People love food. Most people can’t imagine going vegan because they want to keep eating the food that they know is going to taste good (despite the fact that it’s made from animal suffering and environmental destruction). So, if you choose one thing to put the most effort into, let this be the one. Because if all they care about is the taste and experience of eating food, help them to understand that vegan food can be as delicious and enjoyable as any other food in the world.

For inspiration and recipes check out our and our friends’ (who also happen to be our favorite vegan food bloggers) recipes:

The Harvest Hands – Shameless self promotion here, but we’re actually promoting a contest right now and so we want you to be able to try some of this amazing food as well as have the chance to win some awesome stuff. Check out this post for more information on the contest. By the way, our family BEGS for the bacon mac and cheese!

Vegan Yack Attack – Jackie’s recipes are so creative but are also filled with flavors that are familiar. (Crustless bacon brussels quiche?!)

Plant Crush – Besides Ann being one of our absolute favorite humans in the world (seriously she’s the best), she also makes stupid good food that have a wide range of ethnic flairs to them. Great for those adventurers in your family!

Sweet Simple Vegan – Jasmine is so good at making healthy food taste great and making it simple (duh).

Minimalist Baker – While we don’t know Dana personally, we still know that she’s awesome. Her blog is super popular (world famous in fact) and it’s filled with tons of stuff. Right now on her page she is promoting 20 holiday breakfast recipes and they all look insane.

If you know someone who needs to read this, please share it! We love all of you and can’t wait to hear how your holiday goes.  We hope that this blog makes it just a little bit better.

Cheers and Happy Holidays!

Courtney and Zak