Ahh, the holidays, a time of family and togetherness. All cuddled together, snowed in. Be careful, vegetarians. That cozy home can turn into an incubator of resentment, hurt feelings and anger in a heartbeat.
Now’s the time to take a deep breath and practice your Vegetarian Etiquette. It’s not about how to hold a salad fork or address a remarried cousin twice removed. Veg etiquette is all about making your way in the non-veg world without burning bridges. You don’t want to be the vegetarian they tell stories about when they get back to work.
Rule one at the holidays is that the holidays are not the best time to make your point. It’s kind of like weddings and funerals-if someone acts like a jerk at one of those, its never forgotten. The holidays are a time when everybody is supposed to set aside their stuff and just enjoy each other as people. I know, I’ve never met your Uncle Bart, but hey, I have my own stories, believe me.
In fact, an important point that extends beyond the holidays: Sometimes it’s less important to be right than it is to get along. I figured that out after a few years of marriage, maybe that is why I am still married.
Look, I’m with you. Between you, me and cyberspace, factory farms are a horrifying nightmare that should end yesterday. You are completely right that your vegetarian lifestyle is better for the planet, whose cries for help have reached the level of a roar. Yes, your red-faced, overweight Grandpa might get ten more years if he stopped plugging his arteries with daily bacon fixes and fast food burgers. And yes, if you showed a PETA video after dinner they would not be able to stop throwing up.
Still, there is a time and place for everything, and this is the time for tolerance-on all sides. If you do have hostile questioners, now is the time to be Gandhi. Patient, loving, persistent, and strong, our patron saint of vegetarianism and peace knew when to act. I don’t know how he would handle a turkey centerpiece, but you can do your best to imagine it. Have some deflecting, peacemaking phrases ready, like “oh Bob, if you’d really like to discuss it, why don’t we get together some time after the holidays?” Or “I’d be happy to get you some reading material, can I email or send you a book?”
If you’ve got people who anguish about your protein deficiency, just promise that you are completely nourished and offer them some veg stuffing.
It’s not that you can’t speak your truth, but its a strategic move to have peaceful holidays. Keep your powder dry. Be happy and healthy and lead by example. Educate when people are curious, in an objective way, but out of the powderkeg of the family unit. I don’t know why, but just being a vegetarian gets some people riled up. Our very existence seems to be a personal affront. I don’t look at hunters that way, but some of them definitely look at our practices as a violent assault on their way of life.
Like I said, you are totally right, and I hope it makes you feel better to know it. Just keep the peace, be respectful, and you might have more impact than by having an argument. Maybe, just maybe, the next time the Doctor tells your Grandpa to cut back on the bacon, your Grandpa will remember how healthy and happy you are.