I Tried A Vegan Christmas & It Wasn't Even That Different

A little while back, I decided that I no longer felt comfortable eating animal products--meaning I went totally vegan. It wasn’t that I became some crazy hippie, it was just that after a day of school spent binge-watching YouTubers like Bonny Rebecca and Stella Rae, I decided to educate myself and realized that I didn’t wanna have anything to do with the animal food industry. It’s usually not a big deal. My roomie is a vegan and we just eat lots of rice and cocoa krispies and the occasional vegetable. But as Christmas approached, I started to get a little nervous. I am a big Christmas person. “Mistletoe” by Justin Bieber has been blaring through my dorm room since early November. I was not about to sacrifice any of my Christmas spirit now that I was vegan. 

I made a Pinterest board of vegan Christmas cookies forever ago. It was honestly one of the major factors in my decision to go vegan--like, okay, if it’s possible to go wild with the chocolate and peppermint as a vegan, then maybe I’ll consider it. The one problem is that as much as I like eating, I’m not much of a cook. Being my family’s sole vegan meant the responsibility was on me to make any vegan cookies. So I chose a couple recipes, cracked my knuckles, and gave it a go. Until my sister saw what a crappy job I was doing and couldn’t help but take over. Thanks, Janie.

 

I made (will take credit for making) chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies and this chocolate-covered peppermint thin mint type thing. And, honestly, they’re not any harder to make than other cookies. They sometimes call for replacements for animal products--one of them had coconut milk and I think two of them had vegan butter (which is usually made of olive oil). The chocolate chip cookies used flaxseed as an egg replacer, which actually might be cheaper than eggs if you do the math on it. The sugar cookies used pumpkin puree as an egg replacer, which isn’t ideal because you use like one tablespoon and the rest rots in your fridge.  But other than that, I’d say the cookies were pretty normal. They tasted normal, as far as my unrefined college student taste buds could tell. They definitely didn’t make me feel like a weird hippie, or even mildly healthy.

When we had cousins over to hang out on Christmas Eve Day, I was pretty nervous. None of my relatives know I’m vegan. I’m super passionate about it, but I always feel like if I’m gonna tell people, I have to sit down and have “The Talk” because otherwise they’ll just think I’m an annoyingly picky eater or “going through a phase.” Luckily, I realized that nobody gives a crap what I eat. I ate Chex Mix and chips and salsa and even went crazy vegan enough to have a carrot from the veggie tray. We ordered pizza, and my half of the pizza was my own version of the famous Left Beef Pizza, which is basically red sauce and every vegetable available. It was delicious. Not once did I feel weird about not having cheese.

We have a family tradition of going to Chili’s after Christmas Eve church, and I was obviously not going to miss out on that. By that point I’d realized that Christmas spirit really has nothing to do with what you eat, and I could’ve had a great Christmas eating nothing but kale. (That’s a slight exaggeration.) But honestly, bless those Chili’s staff members working Christmas Eve and getting a crazy vegan customer. What luck. I got a fajita with no meat or cheese and corn tortillas, and asked them to add in black beans, pico de gallo, and guacamole. It was a glorious pile of oily food and made me feel a little disgusting, but then I remembered that back when I ate animal products, pretty much every meal made me feel that way. I can’t wait until us vegans increase the demand for plant-based foods so much that it’s no question that every restaurant will have some options.

Christmas Day was what I was most nervous about. We had more relatives over and this time it was an actual sit-down meal with mashed potatoes and turkey and stuffing and everything. I don’t care if people eat that stuff in front of me. I just didn’t want the questions about why I wasn’t eating it. Luckily, I have the best family in the world and my mom bought this hash brown thing and my sister made me this stir fry thing with peppers and hash browns, and I heated up a sweet potato so my plate was pretty full and I didn’t get a single comment. I’ve had vegan mashed potatoes and stuffing and everything and it’s delicious, and I can’t wait until that’s the norm and I get to say I was part of the movement. But until that day, I’m grateful I can sit at the dinner table with loved ones and know I wasn’t contributing to an industry that I’m so strongly opposed to. (However, if you want to have a real vegan Christmas meal, I highly recommend checking out Minimalist Baker for some amazing main courses that your relatives won't even know are vegan.)

The worst part about my vegan Christmas was feeling awkward and self-conscious. But guess what? One day of eating vegan saves roughly 990 gallons of water, 27 square feet of forest, 18 pounds of CO2, 36 pounds of grain, and one animal's life. All I had to do to do that was eat some bomb chocolate chip cookies and feel slightly awkward at the dinner table. My vegan Christmas was so beyond worth it (and one last pro tip before I go: Starbucks hot chocolate powder is the best thing in the world and coconut milk “holiday nog” is the second best.  You’re welcome).