Changing Our Holiday Traditions

I turned to my parents, who were visiting, and asked them what they wanted for breakfast. My dad was playing with his granddaughter, Madi, and said that he didn’t want me to stress.

“You can just make some scrambled eggs and ham or bacon.” He told me. I inwardly sighed.

“Dad, we don’t have eggs or meat, but I can go to the store and buy some for you if you’d like.” He stared at me blankly for a few seconds. My mom chimed in and reminded him that we weren’t eating those items any longer.

“Wait,” he said, “so you don’t eat chicken or eggs or drink milk? Madi either?” I nodded. I think it finally dawned on him that his daughter, his barbacoa (cow tongue or cheek) loving, salsa and cheese inhaling, grew up on a diet of meats, eggs, milk, and chicken daughter, was now living a drastically different life than anything he’d heard of before.

My husband and I decided to try vegetarianism for the month of January.

Our reasoning was strictly due to finances. We noticed that we spent so much money on meats and sometimes we didn’t get around to cooking them before they went bad. During this time we still drank milk, ate cheese, and scrambled eggs, but all that changed when we watched What the Health on Netflix. We decided starting February we would make the full change to veganism and we would extend this to our daughter.

If you’re not sure what veganism is, it means we don’t eat any meats or consume any animal byproducts like eggs, milk, butter, or honey. We focus on eating vegetables, fruits, and meat alternatives like tofu, tempeh, or seitan.

What does this have to do with holiday traditions?

A lot. If you think to your favorite holiday traditions or memories they more than likely include gathering around a meal or spending time together cooking, baking, or enjoying snacks, cocoa, etc. Food plays a huge role in our traditions. Growing up, I couldn’t wait to make Thanksgiving ham or Christmas tamales with my kids. When my grandmother passed away I told myself that I would at least be able to share with my children the many delicious recipes that she taught me. To me, this would keep her memory alive. Then we decided to stop eating most of the items that went into making my traditional holiday meals. This was the same for my husband. We could no longer make his New Year’s pork and sauerkraut or his grandfather’s ham and bean soup.

This made us sad at first. We had to work hard at reminding one another that we could always alter recipes and make our own new traditions. These new traditions could be grounded in our old ones. I couldn’t teach my daughter how to make her grandmother’s chicken and cilantro tamales, but I could teach her how to make tamales with black beans. The outcome wouldn’t be the same. But we’d still be making holiday memories and I could still honor my Grandmother’s recipe and my heritage.

I’ll be honest, our first vegan Thanksgiving was daunting.

Rather than try to recreate a version of a Thanksgiving turkey we kept the menu simple and sought out help from some local Austin vegan shops. Now that we’re quickly approaching our first vegan Christmas we’re going to stick with our current game plan. Keep the menu simple but delicious, and seek outside help for overwhelming tasks like pies and breakfast kolaches. Unlike Thanksgiving, where we celebrated on our own, we’ll be joined by my parents and siblings for Christmas. I’m interested to see how they enjoy our vegan meals and have let them know that we are perfectly fine with them making their traditional dishes.

Making big changes in your life like this can be intimidating, especially when you’re the first or only people to do so in your family. Remember that if it’s important to you, stick to it. Experiment with recipes, find meals that make you smile, invite your family to try and create new memories with you. Worst case scenario have a back up plan, like a delicious place you can reach out to order food, desserts, or snacks. Or have a frozen meal or back up meal ready to go in case your experimenting goes awry.

Don’t let a change in your diet stop you from enjoying your holidays, find ways for your change to enhance your meals and make you smile.


We’d love to hear your favorite vegetarian or vegan holiday recipes in the comments! 


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