VWPA Advice #022: Can I Not Go Home for the Holidays?

“Is it ok to not go home for the holidays? How do I tell my family?”

I realized recently that I don’t want to go home for the holidays. My family is not vegan-friendly and they are making it clear that I will not be accommodated in any way. Holidays are usually stressful anyway, and them not accepting my veganism just makes it worse.

I don’t want to spend my holidays worrying about having enough food and answering passive-aggressive questions. Is it ok to just opt out?

Nichole

HELL TO THE YES!

Opt the fuck out, drop that mic, and go stuff yourself with Field Roast’s Hazelnut Cranberry Roast En Crout like a boss (unless you are gluten-free like me, in which case you are allowed to cry for the things that will not be, then go make yourself some of my amazing gluten-free vegan mushroom gravy and put it over as many mashed potatoes as you can find. Yes, this is shameless self-promotion but as RuPaul would say, “if you don’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else!?” So, with self-love, I give you my best holiday recipe so you can…go love yourself with it…or something?).

I guarantee once you have one holiday without the drama, you’ll never look back.

The best way to have this conversation is to tell your family you are not coming, in a simple clean statement that makes no excuses or apologies, and then cut off any guilt trips at the knees. This is not about being mean or aggressive, but about setting boundaries. No one is obligated to do anything they don’t want, no matter what our parents, relatives, or TV tells us. Blood may be thicker than water, but vegan mushroom gravy is thicker than blood, so tell the fam to pop off so you can feast in peace this year.

Captain Awkward has a great post about telling a dysfunctional family that you are not coming home for the holidays with lots of great tips, my favorite of which is don’t focus on what you’re NOT doing, focus on what you ARE doing. I recommend something along the lines of: “Family, I am [staying here, going to Europe, doing a yoga retreat, etc.] for the holidays this year.” That’s it. Don’t elaborate, don’t apologize or leave room for discussion.

Beyond that, you can decide whether it’s worth it to you to have the discussion as to why you don’t want to come home. Some families will be receptive to an honest conversation, others will react badly and use it as leverage to show how your evil veganism is so evil and ruining everything. It’s best to keep your statements plain, and focus on how you feel. “I don’t feel like home is a safe and welcoming space anymore” is a good start.

Using analogies can help, for instance, ask them how they would feel if they had an allergy and every holiday the house was filled with food they couldn’t eat? Though veganism is not an allergy, this usually gets through to people, to help them understand they are (unknowingly, in most cases) creating a hostile and unwelcoming environment for you. It might open their eyes to see what they can do better, or at least help them understand why the holiday is no longer enjoyable for you.

To soften the blow, you could plan a non-holiday trip to go see them when the visit won’t be so food-oriented. Or you can just leave things as they are and let your family acclimate to the fact that you are a grown-ass adult who is going to have the type of holidays you want to have.

Holidays are contentious; opting out for the first time will be a difficult adjustment for everyone. But never underestimate how important your happiness and comfort are; they should always be your first priority. Setting up this first boundary will set you down a healthy path – the first one is always the hardest, but they get easier and more enjoyable as you go.

If you think you are going to be lonely, set up a vegan potluck, meet some friends at a local vegan restaurant that is having a holiday meal, or throw a vegan “orphan” party for all the stragglers in your area who aren’t going home either.

Whatever you do, just let it be whatever the fuck YOU want to do. It’s liberating and empowering! If you need some camaraderie, I wrote a post two years ago about spending Christmas alone. I hope it resonates with you in a way that emboldens you to do what you need for yourself.

Do lots of self-love stuff and remember that it’s normal and totally fine if you feel sad about not going, or have conflicting feelings, or worry that you made a mistake. Opting out shatters the illusion of healthy family dynamics, and that can be a lot to process. Let the feelings happen, and talk them through with a trusted friend or mental health professional if you need to. Processing is good, really good, but sometimes it’s also confusing and painful, and that’s all ok.

Take care, vegan warrior princess! Go forth boldly into your new holiday experience with the VWPA army behind you!

Callie

Yes! It is a 1000% totally ok to opt out of anything you don’t want to do. Last year I was in a similar situation, between some pretty intense family drama and being a fairly new vegan I was dreading Christmas. I spent weeks trying to negotiate (and arguing) with my family about what dishes could be made vegan and finally it hit me, why am I putting myself through this? Why am I fighting so hard for their consideration? So I decided not to spend Christmas with my family. It was not an easy decision but it was the right one for me. And you know what? It is one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I learned a few things through that experience that I hope will help you in your situation. 1) It is just a day! We put so much pressure on holidays. Whether it is ALWAYS following the same traditions or feeling like we need to meet some societal expectation of happiness, its crazy! Staying home, for the first time ever, and not celebrating Christmas opened my eyes. It is just a day, it can be made special if you want it to be or it can be just like any other. And trust me, there is power in realizing that. You can decide how you want to recognize a holiday, or not at all. Realizing you are in control gives you the freedom to do the things that will actually make you happy, not the things we feel we have to do (our lives don’t have to imitate those hallmark movies in order to be fulfilling!) 2) Taking care of yourself should always be a priority. If a situation is going to do more harm than good you absolutely have the right, heck even the responsibility, to take yourself out of it. 3) Our loved ones should want us to feel happy, safe and cared for; if they don’t, that is on them-not you. They are choosing to put you in a difficult situation, it’s not your fault if the result of their decision is that you don’t attend.

My heart goes out to you warrior princess! Take care of yourself, and remember… the compassion that we fight for should absolutely extend to ourselves.

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