A Very Vegan Christmas

Right now, this Christmas season feels like any other. To an extent, the “Christmas magic” isn’t as present as it used to be, but I try to make the best of it. But beyond the Christmas spirit, this is a new experience for me: my first holiday season as a vegan.

Now I’ve talked up and down about how easy it is to improvise and try new recipes so you don’t even think you’re missing out on anything (I mean, how much are you really missing out on?), but I feel like Christmas is tad trickier to tackle.

I already made it through Thanksgiving, which was surprisingly easy because I was never a big fan of Thanksgiving food to begin with, but Christmas is different. When I’m such a huge Christmas person, I grew up with certain traditions and treats and foods to expect that now are out of reach.

I can constantly applaud my family, especially my mom, for being so accommodating and thoughtful when making food for me and understanding my preferences. I couldn’t ask for anything better. I think we can all agree, however, that preparing savory meals is much easier than baking. Baking requires a new set of skills and ingredients to mimic the eggs and milk and butter necessary for virtually every dessert or goody.

I won’t be having any of the goodies that my grandma makes every holiday season, something I’ve already accepted (and didn’t eat much of anyways). And some classic favorites I enjoy, like hot chocolate and puppy chow, have already made the transition to plant-based. The problem here is that many vegan desserts require various different egg substitutes, whether they be products specifically designed to replace eggs, or other foods like apple sauce or bananas that serve different purposes in cakes or cookies.

Living in the town that we do, finding certain ingredients makes the task even harder. Egg substitutes? Probably won’t find them. You’ll be lucky if you find medjool dates or substitutes for dairy products. My all-time favorite Oreo balls? Cookie salad? Not a realistic possibility. Veganism isn’t really something my town knows about, assuming it’s just vegetarianism, so having them actually carry ingredients I’m looking for (especially when they already struggle carrying normal ingredients) is asking a lot of them.

Also, vegan dessert recipes usually aren’t very easy. Cooking is fairly easy as a vegan if you just throw everything together in a pan, heat it up, stick it in the oven, even just in a blender or food processor, it can be very simple. Baking, on the other hand, involves a lot more precise instructions (I have seen way too many that involve soaking and blending cashews, something I have yet to try out). Maybe if I get over how intimidating it might be, I’ll try it out, or find someone who wants to experiment with me when I live somewhere I might find everything I need. But until then, I have to make do.

I’m snacking right now on caramel corn made with vegan butter, a creation somebody probably couldn’t tell the difference between this and the original recipe. Otherwise, I’m on a Pinterest hunt for easy vegan goodies, a priority for someone who cannot finish a day without a sweet treat.

I also have to remember that the holiday season entails much more than just food. In the retrospect of things, it’s a very small component. There’s the music, the classic shows, the family, the atmosphere, everything else that I love and look forward to. While I do enjoy the taste of my favorite Christmas goodies, I think the nostalgia factor plays a huge role in why I enjoy them, too. I’m just in a different, healthier stage of life, and for that, I am extremely grateful. Coming into veganism, I knew I would have to sacrifice some of those foods that I used to love and crave, but it’s so worth it if it improves my outlook on food and health in general. The positive impact my diet makes will also overshadow minuscule desires.

Once I make it through the first holidays, I think every following holiday will just get easier. It’s a new experience for me, and so far I’m doing well. I like trying new things and seeing what works and discovering my next favorite treat. And if this is my biggest concern right now, I think I’m doing just fine. My biggest concern, in all honesty, is being vegan around others who might not understand my choices, choices that only concern me and nobody else. But that’s a whole other issue. No number of recipes can deal with that.

No matter if you’re a vegan yourself this holiday season or will be with a vegan, understanding and an open mindset are key. The holidays won’t be the same as they used to be, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create an atmosphere that is even better, maybe even inspire others to consider veganism themselves. I think trying new plant-based recipes and showing others how wonderful they can be might be the most convincing argument vegans can make.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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