What makes the holidays so deeply moving to us has a lot to do with our traditions
Whether it’s heading out to see holiday lights or watching our favorite movies together, decorating the Christmas tree or lighting the menorah together, traditions are so important during the holiday season. They keep us together.
Holiday food is a big part of that, but it’s also a part that can be a sore spot for vegans. The big family meal can be a contentious one when a committed vegan is sitting across the table from a family member chewing on a turkey bone. Something as simple as the tradition of baking holiday cookies together is a source of friction.
The thing that vegans have to realize is that being vegan doesn’t mean giving up tradition. It gives us the chance to create new family traditions that we can savor just as fully. We are the creators of our own holiday heritage! Our own cruelty free heritage. Our own health conscious heritage.
Here are seven animal free holiday traditions that will hopefully inspire you to create your own. Vegan holidays can be amazing holidays!
1 – Create a holiday meal centerpiece
The centerpiece of the holiday meal is traditionally some kind of meat, which leaves vegans feeling not only left out but also turned off by the concept of sitting around the table. One of the best things that you can do to make the holidays your own is to create a central dish that’s vegan.
This should be something that’s only made during the holidays, which is what makes it special. It must be delicious, and it must also involve a level of preparation that’s more than the norm. The idea is to recreate the sense of specialness that comes with animal based holiday meals. That thing that people get excited about and salivate over on Christmas day, the thing that they can’t wait to eat.
You can of course buy a Tofurky or other ready made vegan central dish. These are totally valid and solid choices if you’re not a cook because they still fill the requirements of being special and requiring extra preparation.
For something really amazing, you might try making a stuffed tofu holiday loaf yourself. Here’s a quick recipe. Don’t feel like you have to follow the recipe exactly – make it your own!
Stuffed tofu holiday loaf
- 4 lbs. firm tofu
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1/3 cup cooking wine (optional)
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 lb toasted bread of your choice, cubed
- 3 stalks celery, minced
- 1 red onion, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped OR 2 tsp dried
- 1/4 cup parsley, minced
- salt & pepper to taste
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 4 sprigs rosemary
The night before, crumble the tofu and press it into a small-holed colander. Place the colander in another bowl to catch the liquid, then place another bowl on top of the tofu and weight it with cans of veggies. Put the whole thing in the fridge overnight or for at least six hours to drain the tofu.
In the morning, pull the tofu out and allow it to warm to room temperature. Scoop out the center, reserving for later. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Saute the onions, celery, and garlic in a bit of vegetable oil until tender. Add in the vegetable stock, parsley, sage, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Then mix in the cubed bread. Your stuffing is done!
Mix the remaining ingredients except the rosemary and lightly baste the inside of the tofu with the mixture. Then press the stuffing into the tofu and cover with the reserved crumbled tofu. Turn the whole thing very carefully over into a greased roasting pan. Baste with half of the remaining mixture and cover with foil. Bake for an hour in your preheated oven.
After an hour, remove the foil and baste again. Put it back in the oven and bake for another 45 minutes to an hour until it’s golden brown. Garnish with rosemary sprigs and serve.
2 – Stuff Stockings with uncommon fruits
Holiday stockings are a tradition that go back for ages. It’s common to fill these giant socks with candy and little plastic toys that are destined for the landfill. Neither of those options is particularly healthy for the body or the planet.
The tradition of putting fruit into stockings isn’t new at all. Citrus fruits, in particular oranges, are quite traditional. It’s said that they allude to the three gold coins that St. Nicholas left in the stockings of the poor at Christmastime.
Oranges are great, but how about something a little more exotic? Remember, the holidays are all about specialness. Check out an international grocery store in your area, or the local organic foods market. The more exotic, the better.
Here are some fun ideas to get you rolling:
- Starfruit – Sliced, these fruits are marvelously festive for the holidays.
- Dragonfruit – The bright color and soft inner texture is strikingly reminiscent of a dragon’s egg!
- Kumquats – One of the only citrus fruits that has an edible peel, these little guys are delicious and so fun on Christmas morning
- Loquat – Native to China, these are actually easy to find in much of the world. The look like apricots but taste like grape
- Lychee – Well loved all over the world, these tough fruits look like something out of a storybook and are delicious
- Rambutan – If you can find one of these hairy fruits, it’ll be the talk of Christmas morning!
- Cucamelon – Yes, these are indeed like tiny wateremelons.
- Cherimoya – Soft and sweet, this fruit tastes remarkably like bubblegum!
- Buddha’s Hand – The most exotic looking here by far, this Asian fruit is delicious and wonderfully fun.
3 – Volunteer at a local animal shelter
Taking care of others is one of the best parts of the holidays. Though it’s important to volunteer all year long, the holiday season is a reminder of how important it is to give to others.
Don’t limit yourself to the big local shelters either. There are often smaller animal rescues that need more help than the big guys. Do a quick search online or ask around in your community to see who needs the most help. Signing up to shovel out kennels or to care for small animals can be incredibly enriching for anyone, and you might well find out that you get more out of it than you could possibly ever get!
Invite your family to do this with you in order to create some amazing family bonding and beautiful holiday memories. Volunteering to help make the lives of animals better is a seriously amazing way to celebrate the season.
4 – Make vegan treats as gifts
Get your vegan baking on! You don’t have to be an awesome cook to put together some delicious treats, there are tons of simple recipes out there that are pretty well fool proof. It can be cookies or cakes, whatever you think is fun and delicious. Wrap it all up in pretty paper with some ribbons and you’re all set!
The best part about this gift is that you’re letting people in on how delicious animal-free eating can be. Even today people tend to think that vegan food is bland or unappetizing. This is a chance to show them that it’s not!
Here’s a fun and easy vegan recipe that anyone would love to get – mug cakes!
Vegan Mug Cake Recipe
- 2 cups flour
- 1.5 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup soy milk powder (vanilla or chocolate protein powder works well)
- 1/2 cup cocoa
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
Mix all the ingredients thoroughly. Place four tablespoons each in bags and seal. Create a tag with the following instructions for your gift recipients: Mix the contents of this bag with two tablespoons of water in a mug. Microwave for thirty to forty-five seconds until the top is dry. Cool for two minutes before eating.
These make a marvelous gift if you give a bag or two of mix inside a fun mug! Vegan fun food for friends.
5 – Make a vegan holiday breakfast tradition
With our busy lives, we don’t always have time to make an extravagant breakfast. The holidays are a fantastic time to do big breakfasts because there’s time off of work and school, so we can spend some fun time in the kitchen in those morning hours.
Again, the idea here is to make it really special. These should be things that you save for just this time of year, recipes that you cook just during these precious holiday mornings. Whether it’s tempeh bacon (which is delicious but takes some effort) or vegan pancakes with fresh fruit and all the trimmings, holiday breakfast that’s cruelty free can be marvelous!
Cinnamon rolls are a perfect choice for the big holiday breakfast meal, and they take enough time and effort that you’ll only want to do them once a year, but they’re totally worth it. If you’ve never worked with yeast before, this is the time to try it!
Holiday Vegan Cinnamon Coconut Breakfast Rolls
For the dough:
- 2/3 cups warm water
- 1/2 cup nut milk, slightly warm
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup + 1 tsp melted coconut oil
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
For the filling:
- ¼ cup coconut oil (plus a little extra)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ¼ cup coconut sugar (plus a little extra)
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1/4 cup flaked coconut
Coconut pecan glaze:
- ¼ cup coconut sugar
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 tbsp pecans
- 1/4 cup nut milk
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract (or vanilla extract)
- 1/4 cup coconut flakes
Mix all of the ingredients for the dough in a standing mixer with the dough hook, kneading for seven minutes or so until the dough is elastic and super smooth.
Coat the dough in a bit of coconut oil and place in a large bowl. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in size (this will take several hours).
Flour a surface and roll the dough into a large rectangle, about 20 inches by 16 inches. Then mix the filling and spread evenly. Roll the dough up along the long edge with the filling inside. Place the seam side down and cut it into eight equal pieces.
Grease an eight inch pan or iron skillet with coconut oil, then place the cut cinnamon buns inside, from the center out. Place plastic wrap over the pan and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Put the whole thing in the fridge overnight to rise once more.
In the morning, bake for 35 minutes in a 300F oven. Watch for browning and cover with foil after 15 minutes to prevent burning the tops.
While they’re cooking, mix the glaze ingredients except the flaked coconut in a small saucepan and simmer on low for seven minutes. Pour over the warm buns and sprinkle with the flaked coconut.
Eat within two days or freeze the leftovers for post holiday deliciousness!
6 – Host a vegan holiday party
Sometimes the best way to share the joy of the veganism is to spread the word with joy. If you want to make a major statement about being cruelty free, then host a gathering that’s free from animal products.
To make it even more impactful, give your guests a small gift bag that includes some vegan treats and the recipes for the foods that you serve. It’s a perfect way to show off how fantastic veganism and how much you love it without being pushy.
Your gathering can become art of the holiday tradition not just for your family, but for your friends. Start off small and keep things simple, then see how the tradition can grow year after year.
As children, we look forward every year to the magic of this season. Getting older often means creating our own traditions, especially if there are kids involved (but even if there aren’t). Opting out of animal products doesn’t mean opting out of holiday fun! You can be vegan to the bone and festive for the season. We hope these traditions will help you to create your own awesome cruelty free holiday.
What are your favorite vegan holiday traditions? Let us know in the comments!