It’d be all too easy, Scroogish and Grinch-ish for me to bluntly proclaim a dislike for the festive holidays. After all, there is something undeniably magical about the sound of carol-ers; the sight of towns illuminated with festive lights; and the aroma of seasoned flesh wafting through houses, right? Bah, humbug.
As a vegetarian, I’m very familiar with the territory that comes with it. Although I’m no hardcore, up-in-arms Morrissey of a vegetarian, I am still no stranger to the seemingly obligatory eye-rolling that only comes from struggling to choose a meal while dining out. Christmas is a time when this is only accentuated, as meat tends to play a central role in festive meals.
When you say no to the meat you jar the festivities and you feel a bit like you’re wrong in declining, even though it’s your belief and choice.
This rejection of something that is such a quintessential part of Christmas is something that can make the period quite lonely. Christmas seems to be the one time of the year where celebrations often involve more of a focus on meals as opposed to parties, and of course meat is far more prominent at restaurants than parties. And with a limited menu comes limited enjoyment, limited involvement and - ultimately - limited happiness.
It seems a stretch, but it seems to be a common thing for a vegetarian lifestyle to cause a sense of outsider loneliness at Christmas. Having spoken to some vegetarians about their experiences of Christmas, it seems to be a regular occurrence.
“People love to pick up on anything unusual to them at any time, but saying ‘no, I won’t have any turkey’ or ‘I’ll pass on the pigs in blankets, thanks’ at Christmas Dinner makes you an easy target,“ says one long time vegetarian.
“When you say no to the meat you jar the festivities and you feel a bit like you’re wrong in declining, even though it’s your belief and choice. And it isolates you a bit. For me, I don’t want to be that person so I avoid the meals where possible. Christmas day is a nightmare.″
Luckily, not all meals are as awkward as going out generally is. In the company of good people, Christmas day doesn’t have to be a bad experience for vegetarians. But, again, this depends entirely on the people you are with. One former vegetarian described very mixed experiences of Christmas dinner.
″Sometimes, you’ll find yourself spending Christmas with people who get it. But unfortunately, there are a lot who want nothing to do with it. I spent Christmas with my friends one year and they were completely understanding, and asked me ahead of time what kind of things I would like. It was a lovely gesture, but one that is as common as I hoped and thought it would be.
″One Christmas I spent with my parents was particularly unpleasant. They were insistent that I would either eat meat like them or I would be forced to make my own dinner separately. It was miserable.″
With so many negative aspects to being a vegetarian at Christmas, it can sometimes be a bit difficult to find good things about the lifestyle during the festive period. But there are definitely some.
″Christmas is about much more than the meals and meats, though they are big parts of it. Most other parts of it are perfectly fine, and it doesn’t matter whether you eat meat or not. There are a lot of different parts of Christmas for everybody to enjoy.″
Aside from the celebrations and meals, Christmas is also a time to be grateful for all of the good things that you have. And there is always something to feel particularly grateful for: nobody ever got meat sweats from carrots.