Compassionate Christmas

Compassionate Christmas

My wife Lynn and I have been vegans for approximately a decade, and vegetarians for much longer. We became vegetarians because we like animals and feel that it is wrong to eat them or have them enslaved so that we can take food from them. Since making that compassionate decision we have felt good that our diet is also beneficial for the environment and our personal health.

Christmas is a wonderful time of year. Our family eagerly starts looking forward to this magical season as soon as fall arrives. By November the excitement escalates as we start making holiday plans and begin thinking about decorating the house. Toward the end of November we start reading Christmas books and watching holiday movies.

Christmas is a time for family and friends. It is also a good chance to celebrate a compassionate lifestyle and to remember and help others who are not as fortunate. We believe it is wrong to celebrate life, family, religion and various other significant things by cruelly raising and then killing a sentient being — so we don’t. We do prepare wonderful vegan meals and snacks. We also ensure that our canine, feline and equine family members get some extra treats during the holidays.

The compassionate traditions that we engage in at Christmas also extend to the trees. We do not kill a living tree so that it can serve as a decoration for a couple of weeks. What we do is cut several smaller branches from various, large, evergreen trees and put them into a Christmas tree stand. These white pine, red pine, white spruce and occasionally, cedar boughs look beautiful, and they smell great, too! It is becoming a tradition that Lynn, Gleannan, Liam and I walk the trails on our property a week or so before Christmas in search of our “tree.” Most of the limbs are cut down because they are in the way; many of them have grown across the trails. After Christmas, before the boughs dry out, we put them outside where they provide some shelter for small animals before returning to the earth.

Many others aren’t as fortunate as we are, so we buy some toys for children who don’t get many at Christmas. We explain to Gleannan, 7, and Liam, 3, that there are people who don’t have as much as we do and that it is important to help others. Gleannan and Liam go with us when we buy the toys, and they buy some of them with their own money.

Since we usually spend Christmas at home, we don’t have to worry about what we’ll eat or what we’ll serve to others whose diets differ considerably from ours. Lynn’s parents often spend Christmas with us, but their diets are similar to ours so nothing special needs to be prepared.

Things are different when we go to relatives’ homes for dinner during the holidays. While there are always plenty of vegetables, there is also a turkey’s cooked-and-beheaded corpse along with a plate piled high with slices of the unfortunate animal’s flesh, which we have to explain to our children. It is an introduction to the harsh reality that cruelty and violence is both common and accepted by much of our species. There are other foods, such as chocolate and many other desserts that we have to make off-limits to Gleannan and Liam because those items contain products that come from animals. We explain to them why we don’t eat these non-vegan items.

Monitoring what our children eat while visiting relatives during the holidays isn’t a big deal. We just have to be prepared for it. If we’re not sure whether a food is vegan, we ask. If we’re not confident that a food is vegan, we simply avoid it. Gleannan has always been inquisitive, and she has a good understanding of why, as vegans, we do certain things. When she is not sure about whether she can eat a certain food she will ask Lynn or me. She is also supportive and enthusiastic of our vegan lifestyle.

Both of our families are considerate of our diet, and always ensure that there is plenty of food that we can eat. If we want a particular food item, we prepare it ourselves, let the hosts know that we’re bringing it, and we make sure to take enough for everyone. Well-prepared, tasty vegan foods often attract even the most die-hard carnivores!

Arranging to bring some vegan or vegetarian food to a get-together not only ensures that our family will have enough to eat, but by sharing it with others we show them how delicious and healthy vegan food is, and that our diet doesn’t need to be an inconvenience. When others see how well we eat and that our diet is simple to maintain, good for the environment, non-human animals and ourselves, it reflects well on a humane, life-giving way of life!