Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Compassionate Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I look forward to it every year.  In the vegan community, however, there is some sense of discomfort on Thanksgiving.  The thought of so many turkeys being slaughtered for one day of holiday festivity is indeed alarming for whatever reasons vegans and vegetarians don't eat meat.  To add to that, trying to figure out which Thanksgiving side dishes aren't made with chicken or beef broths, dairy products, or eggs is a battle in itself.  Trying to have a peaceful--and non-confrontational--Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends after that might seem impossible.

I live a vegan lifestyle for several reasons, among them ethical, environmental, and the fact that being vegan feels good and healthy to me.  Being vegan helps me feel more compassionate, not just towards animals, but in all my interactions, and brings a mindfulness to eating that transcends to other facets of my life.  I sometimes call myself a "flexible vegan" or a "social vegan," meaning that I prefer to be completely vegan, but will sacrifice some of those values for the sake of building and maintaining relationships.  For me, Thanksgiving is a great time to think about how to better balance those values in thought and in practice.

Below, I'll offer some tips for a "compassionate" Thanksgiving:
1.  Draw some lines.  For example, I will not eat food made with chicken or beef broth, and I might ask my Thanksgiving host if I suspect something (such as stuffing) has broth in it.  I'll definitely be avoiding anything "au gratin" or with noticeable dairy products.  But if the mashed potatoes or pumpkin pie have a little milk or egg in them, I'm not going to go so far as to reject everything.

2.  Offer to bring some vegan dishes to dinner.  There are so many delicious vegan Thanksgiving recipes out there, especially considering that root vegetables such as squash, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins are abundant and can be used for so many versatile main dishes and side dishes.

3.  Be thankful.  It may seem obvious, but with holidays can come a lot of stress.  I like to use Thanksgiving as a time to be thankful for my community both large (I usually run a Turkey Trot) and small (my family, friends, and Thanksgiving dinner table).  Thanksgiving is a great time to savor a delicious dinner, but more importantly, it's a time to savor relationships.

4.  Give back.  Donate food to a shelter, volunteer, or just help a friend.  It makes No. 3 (above) easier.  Compassion, gratitude, and generosity towards everyone is an important value for a vegan (and non-vegan) lifestyle.

Wishing everyone a very happy--and compassionate--Thanksgiving!