All around the world it’s holiday season, but is it time we moved on from meat?
November and December are busy times in the celebratory calendar. And while many festivals have love and compassion at their heart, these important principles can be overlooked when it comes to the foods we eat.
Now, with vegans all around the world, and of every faith and none, we can see that choosing a fully plant-based diet is absolutely in keeping with our other cultural and religious traditions.
It allows us to really live the principles of justice, kindness and peace, while celebrating important dates and festivals in a traditional way.
From 4th November, Hindus, Jains and Sikhs will celebrate the five-day Festival of Lights. It’s a time to celebrate light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance and good over evil.
Homes, shops and other buildings are decorated with lamps while fireworks light up the night sky. Families and friends get together to share sumptuous feasts, and sweet treats play an important part in the festivities. Incorporating veganism into Diwali is the perfect way to update this tradition.
Ladoo, burfi, kaju pista rolls, gulab jamun, rasmalai and much more can be made vegan quite easily.
On 12th November comes the Thai festival of lights and lanterns, a time to thank the Water Goddess for her supply, while apologising for polluting her waters. Given animal agriculture’s significant contribution to polluted waters, this is a great time to celebrate with plant-based foods.
And, while many traditional celebratory dishes are already vegan, others can easily be adapted. The many amazing faux meats can be used in dishes such as Krathong Tong, Nua Yang and Gaeng Khua Gai. This means the flavours, textures and traditions all remain.
To get a sense of the traditional Thai foods available when vegan, check out these tasty dishes.
The Birthday of Guru Nanak
This important Sikh celebration on November 30th commemorates the birthday of the religion’s founder. The day starts with a procession, accompanied by music. Lights are lit, people gather to pray, and food plays an important part.
Devotees will share a free meal that is completely vegetarian and prepared by community volunteers. The lunch or Langar often comprises roti, pulao, dal, vegetable dishes and sweets. Most dishes are vegan, and the sweets can be made so simply by substituting ghee for vegan butter.
Try these amazing recipes for the occasion.
This United States national holiday on 25th November commemorates the settlers’ / colonists’ first harvest in 1621. Today, friends and family gather together to watch parades and football games, and eat.
Traditionally, a turkey is served alongside stuffing, mashed potatoes, cornbread, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, macaroni cheese, corn, bread rolls, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin or apple pie.
For those who love this cornucopia of dishes, considering a vegan version could be daunting, but every dish – bar the turkey – can easily be adapted to be fully plant-based, and therefore suitable for all guests. As for the turkey, vegan turkey meat is available to buy quite readily, so there is no need to miss out on a single thing.
In late November and early December comes the Jewish Festival of Light. It commemorates the Maccabean Revolt against the Syrian-Greek army and the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the second century B.C.
Today, the holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, games and gifts, and of course, traditional foods. As the oil in the temple lamp is key to the celebrations, foods that are cooked in oil are often eaten at this celebration.
This includes latkes, fritters made with potatoes or a variety of other vegetables and sufganiyot, or doughnuts. Also popular is beef brisket, and all of this can be made vegan, even the brisket, thanks to the miracle of seitan.
This mid-winter festival celebrates the shortest day of the year: usually December 21st. In the UK, it is connected to paganism but spiritual people, and those who have a connection to the earth and its seasons, may also celebrate this important day in the calendar.
Solstice is a highly personal celebration. Some people will go outside to see the sunrise, others may light candles or lanterns, or make a wreath using winter greenery. Some people will go to Stonehenge to watch the sunset on the shortest day.
As a very personal day, the foods eaten vary widely, but as it is a time to celebrate the earth turning and the coming of spring, it seems fitting to honour it with the most earth-friendly foods. Warming foods traditionally eaten include soups, roasted root vegetables, and rich fruitcake. Mulled cider is a popular drink.
On 25th December comes the Christian festival that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, although today it is also celebrated by many non-Christians as a mid-winter festival. Gifts are exchanged, a tree is brought into the house and decorated, there are candles, and games and a big feast.
Commonly eaten is a roast turkey and pigs-in-blankets, which are sausages wrapped in bacon. Alongside these meats are roast or mashed potatoes, roast parsnips, stuffing, fresh vegetables, gravy, cranberry sauce, followed by a dense fruit pudding, mince pies or fruit cake.
Much of this is already vegan or can easily be made so. Pigs-in-blankets can be made using vegan sausages and bacon, and so it is simply a question of the centrepiece.
There are excellent vegan turkey meats readily available to buy, but some people prefer to change the centrepiece and instead make a chestnut and mushroom wellington or a whole stuffed pumpkin.
Right at the end of the year comes the Scottish celebration of Hogmanay. All around the world, people see in the new year, and each has their own way of doing it.
In Scotland, where its origins go back to the celebration of the winter solstice brought over by the Vikings, it is one big party.
There are torchlit processions, fireworks and street parties. It’s a way of bringing together friends and strangers to start the new year afresh. The first visitor of the year to your home brings whisky and shortbread – a tradition known as “firstfooting”.
Whisky is vegan and shortbread can be made so. Other traditional foods tend to be meat-heavy, but everything can be made vegan, even stovies (a stew using leftovers), black bun (a pastry-encased fruitcake) and the infamous haggis, neeps and tatties.
Haggis is traditionally made using offal but one of the biggest haggis-producing companies also makes a very tasty vegan version, so it is very easy to eat vegan, while staying true to tradition.
Whatever dates you will be celebrating this year, we wish you much happiness and joy. And we would love to see your vegan celebration meals, so don’t forget to tag us!