Despite being a Vegan Blogger, I somehow still receive at least one non-vegan gift most years. If it happens to me, it likely happens to others. So I thought I would share some of my experiences, along with how I handled them, to empower you when navigating this unexpected faux-pas.
Begin by reminding yourself that it is a gift and it was kind of this person to include you on their shopping list. Maintaining your self-control in such a moment can be challenging even for a veteran vegan, so just do your best and determine your response on a case-by-case basis.
Before you lose your Christmas cool, ask yourself:
Does this person know you are vegan?
Do they fully understand what that means? Are you certain?
You might be surprised in learning how little they actually grasp of the vegan lifestyle. I met a doctor recently who told me she was a vegetarian which prompted me to share that I am vegan. She was intrigued and had many questions for me. We chatted for a while and she shared that I had inspired her to reassess her consumer choices. I was on a high and then quickly plummeted when she remarked, “When I think of vegans, I think of diet choices not clothing or other products”. I was floored.
Oddly enough, my vegan husband and I were given two hams this year for Christmas by his kosher Jewish colleague. To be fair, he gave hams to everyone in their office, so it isn’t as though they were specifically purchased for us. He’s a very nice man and we deeply appreciate that he thought of us, as he always remembers us at Christmas. Still, a ham is a weird gift, particularly when the giver is kosher and the recipients are vegan. It was puzzling, but perfectly innocent. The next morning I donated them to our local soup kitchen.
On the otherhand, life will always provide you with antagonists. An annoying relative used to mock me at every family function, in front of a crowd, by routinely listing various animal products and asking me if I eat them. (Ahhh, the list that we all get interrogated with.) When I responded “no” she would throw a disapproving glare at the other family members in the room along with a “she’s so crazy” smirk. By the time she worked her way down the list to honey she would announce to everyone that I was “too strict and had an eating disorder”. I always held my head high and met her snotty questions with kindness even though I knew what she was about. At Christmas, she would intentionally give me gifts that had animal products in them and laugh when I opened them. One year she gave me candles made with honey and beeswax, along with a pair of suede gloves. We all knew it was intentional and she was known for being a self-serving ego-driven person. Rather than stooping to her level, I accidentally forgot to take them home with me. I’ve also forgotten to visit this relative for almost a decade. Whoops.
At the same time you don’t want people to define you by your veganism. Many years ago I was given a collection of odd gifts by a couple I knew. They had obviously gone to a health food store and asked someone to help them find vegan items for the “problem person” on their list. Among the gifts were Jason toothpaste, Kiss My Face lotion, Liz Lovely Cowgirl Cookies and a bar of oatmeal soup. The toothpaste was a truly bizarre inclusion but they were trying, so of course I thanked them for saving me a trip to the grocery store.
A former boss gave me a box of candy one year. He loudly complained to my co-workers, who were huddled around opening their gifts, that he and his wife had to read ingredient lists in the store for 10 minutes to find something that “didn’t have a face”. He repeatedly squaked,”Can’t have a face! Can’t have a face!” while shaking his hands to mime a panicked motion. It was a real turn off. Thankfully my co-workers were equally horrified by his behavior. We let him go into his office before exchanging WTF looks. I’ll never understand why he chose to buy me a food item if it was such trouble. Has he never heard of a book?
I hope you had fun with this post and have a truly magical Christmas.