Thursday, August 24, 2017

Why it's okay to not go home for the holidays

Being the only vegan in the family is hard all year round, but the holiday season can be an absolute nightmare.

While the festive season is touted as a time of “family”, “peace” and “fun”, being the lone vegan means you’re the only one who sees the irony of celebrating these by sitting down to a table full of dead animals. 4727907414_d4537d947e_z (1)

Of course, the food is just the beginning. It’s easy enough to prepare and bring your own food if you know vegan options will be thin on the ground, but actually sitting down to eat it can bring more problems than solutions. Firstly, you have to eat it while enduring the smell, sights and, possibly most horrifically, the sounds of animal products being consumed all around you. As you try to ignore the mental images the animal products elicit in you, your mood may begin to falter. Worst of all is the overt negativity distant or even close relatives can lay upon you. Snide remarks, “jokes”, complaints or plain argumentative drivel is enough to push anyone over the edge. Suddenly, you might snap, becoming “that person” who made a scene “unnecessarily.” Even if you don’t snap, people might pick up on your discomfort or negativity, asking what’s wrong or even chastising you for bringing the mood of the event down.

Aside from the food (which family events are usually focused around), there’s all the small things that go with being around family in the holiday season: the exchange of animal products for gifts, the day-to-day use of animal products, the exploitation of animals during family outings, and so on.

If just the idea of going home for the holidays fills you with dread, it’s important to know you always have the option of simply not going. If you’re considering your family’s reaction and thinking, “No, that is simply not an option”, it may help to consider why it really is. 

3107199448_ea29d598ca_z

Your absence at an event can send a powerful message.

Your absence makes a powerful statement 

A protest of absence may be extreme, but its very nature sends a clear message. Every missing family member is felt, no matter how small or big an event. If you decline the event’s invitation and politely explain why you will not be attending, those at the event will have no doubts about why you didn’t come. Carefully explaining that you do not agree with the consumption of animal products and are not comfortable “celebrating” the festive season in such an environment gives you back the power and voice you’d be denied if forced to attend the event.

Most importantly, your decision gives a voice to the animals whose lives were cruelly and unnecessarily taken for the fleeting gastronomical pleasure of a few. Your action may spur positive reactions in others by inspiring a compassionate change in them. At the very least, your protest of absence will send a clear message about the resolve of your ethics. 

Your mental health should be your top priority

As harsh as it sounds, only you can really care about you. As much as your family members love you, they just don’t get it. For now, anyway. Hopefully the future will see them be vegan too, but if you’re consistently devastated at how little they understand about you and veganism, it might be time to consider going the holiday period alone, or with like-minded friends.

“Only you can determine what is best for you and your mental health”

The word self-care is thrown around a lot on the internet, but in this context it is not only deeply justified, but potentially necessary. Only you can really know if you’re “up” to enduring another holiday season with family and friends who exploit animals. Only you can determine what is best for you and your mental health.

338881917_e3bb2c9b4f_z

Going home for Christmas as a vegan can be tough on your mental health.

Social pressure should never undermine your wellbeing 

Though the mere thought of not being with your family these holidays may create feelings of unease within you, you should remember who you’re looking out for, and why. Not attending the family party can be your way of defusing a tense situation and recharging for a time of year that is difficult enough. 

There will be social pressure on you no matter which decision you make. While not going may mean some external upset (or even a lot), you will have avoided a much more difficult internal (and perhaps external) turmoil.

“You should never feel bad for making a personal decision made for the benefit of your mental wellbeing”

Remember: You should never, ever feel bad, or be made to feel bad, for making a personal decision made for the benefit of your mental wellbeing. While your family’s reaction may be one of anger, upset and defensiveness, your reaction to going may have been more than you could handle. 

The past is a good indicator of the future

If you’re not sure how things will go this holiday season, it might be best to look to the past. If the suggestion of a Tofurkey or lentil roast main and delicious vegan sides was near-laughable in your family last time you suggested it, you can likely guess what their reaction will be this time. If you continuously go out of your way to provide vegan options only to have them overshadowed by animals’ flesh and bodily secretions, the consistent feelings of defeat can be crushing. 

Look to the past and ask yourself: How did previous family events transpire? Most importantly, how did you feel, before, during and afterwards? How long did it take you to rewind and recover, and was the process worth it?

5348221248_a363e09af1_z

Christmas with family can be hard when the idea of a lentil roast main is laughable to those you love.

You’re giving up other opportunities 

For a lot of people, going home for the holidays means travelling. This extra time and effort can feel redundant when you know what’s inevitably waiting for you. This travel and the actual time spent at the event may also mean missing out on the events you wanted to go to deep down. Whether it was a vegan Christmas party with your friends, a local meet-up or a compassionate New Year’s celebration, it can feel horrible declining invitations year after year, just because you feel obliged to go to family events.

The feelings of contentment, comfort and happiness that come from celebrating the season at a vegan event are immense. It is truly a freeing feeling to be joined by compassionate people in an environment that is truly peaceful, cheerful and happy. Even if not going home for the holidays means you’ll spend quality time alone, that sort of peace is bliss.  

You will know for next time

Of course, not going may end up being a mistake, but at least you will know. Making the decision to not attend is a bold decision by itself, and the outcome will likely be similarly impressive. Whether your family’s reaction is positive of hugely negative, you will find out exactly how it feels to break away from tradition for the sake of the animals and your mental health, and see exactly how their reaction results. What happens next is up to you.

In the end, a decision like this is really up to each individual. While it’s difficult to know just how your family might react, and what the lasting impact of this might be, the important thing is that you do what is right by you.

(If not going home really isn’t an option within your world of family politics and yet you know it will be horrible, hang tight as we prepare a list of tips for dealing with omnis in the holiday period.)

post-christmas leftover feast by malloreigh is licensed under CC BY 2.0

empty tables, empty bottle, f by pkabz is licensed under CC BY 2.0

327/365: Pace, Pax, Peace by urbanseastar is licensed under CC BY 2.0

the only good thing about the rain is this colourful situation by incendiarymind is licensed under CC BY 2.0