A Very Merry Vegan Christmas

Trying to choose gifts for family and friends at Christmas can be a challenge at the best of times, but what if you are shopping for a vegan - is that even more difficult?

As veganism becomes more popular and mainstream, increasing numbers of people are adopting the plant-based lifestyle, and chances are that you now know at least one person who is vegan.

If you have a family member or friend who is vegan then you may be wondering how to shop for them or play host to them over the holiday season. We hope that this article will guide you through some of the confusion, so you can entertain, shop for and feed the vegan/s in your life this Christmas with the minimum of stress.

What Is A Vegan?

So, what is a vegan? What do they eat / not eat? What do they wear? Do they eat gluten? Do they eat honey? Do they wear wool? Can they eat chocolate? What can you get them for a Christmas present, and if they come to your house, what can you feed them?

The vegan society defines veganism as….

A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude-as far as is possible and practicable-all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.

To sum up: Vegans don't eat meat, fish, dairy products or honey. They don't wear leather, suede, wool or silk or use products containing duck or goose down. Vegans avoid cosmetics that include animal derived ingredients and/or that have been tested on animals.

Although at first glance it may seem a bit of a challenge to buy the vegan in your life a suitable gift, it's not as problematic as it appears, and just requires a little thought.

Vegan Christmas Gifts

When buying clothes or footwear bear in mind that vegans don't wear wool, leather or silk.  That means that silk pyjamas, leather belts and woollen jumpers and scarves are out of the question. However, clothing that is made from cotton or synthetic materials is a great choice. Checking labels before purchasing is a good idea.

A scarf that is 100% polyester, or a sweater that is synthetic rather than wool will make a welcome gift. Many vegans wear canvas shoes to avoid using leather but there are now many companies that make beautiful shoes and boots out of faux leather. Similarly, with wallets, purses, bags, watch straps and belts; all these items are now available with a vegan-friendly option.

Most spirits are vegan, unless they are cream based liqueurs or contain honey, and alcohol-related products are usually welcome as a Christmas gift.

Some innovative companies are using alternative, eco-friendly materials such as cork, bamboo and even pineapple, kelp and mushrooms to create plant-based textiles. Upcycled bike inner tubes have been used to make lovely wallets and bags. Doing a quick search online will uncover a wealth of vegan products that are suitable for every budget.

Cruelty Free Cosmetics

Shopping for vegan-friendly cosmetics, soaps or household products doesn't have to be a difficult matter. Look for the 'Vegan Society' logo to be assured that the cosmetics in question contain no animal products and have not involved any animal testing by the manufacturers or third parties. The 'Leaping Bunny' logo certifies a product as cruelty-free and ensures that none of the products or by-products have been tested on animals.

Entertaining Vegan Guests

We all love party snacks, but what can you get in for your vegan guests? Never fret, because there is a whole host of delicious fun foods that are suitable for your plant-eating friends.

Many foods are 'accidentally vegan' but when checking labels look out for animal derived ingredients (usually in bold) such as:

  • Milk
  • Casein
  • Milk powder
  • Whey
  • Butter
  • Honey
  • Beeswax
  • Gelatin
  • Isinglass

Alcohol that contains isinglass (a gelatin made from fish bladders) isn't considered vegan. Increasingly food producers are now labelling products to make it easier for shoppers see at a glance if foods and beverages are suitable for vegans. If you have any doubts about an item, a quick google search should clarify whether it is vegan or not.

Vegan Party Snacks

Many traditional party snacks are vegan, including spring rolls, onion bhaajis, pakoras, samosas, certain brands and flavours of crisps and biscuits. Dark chocolate that doesn't contain milk is usually vegan and is often helpfully labelled as such.

Dairy-free milk chocolate can usually be obtained at specialised health food stores and usually includes nut milk such as hazelnut milk as a dairy alternative. Spinach dips and foods such as hummus, guacamole, tomato tapenade and salsa are vegan. Pair them with crudités, zucchini chips, tortilla chips or pitta bread toast points for delicious finger foods.

Vegan hot dogs, burgers, sausage rolls and chicken-style nuggets are all fun choices that everyone can enjoy. A wide array of vegan cheeses can be teamed up with vegan crackers. Many supermarkets sell vegan mince pies. Nowadays pretty much every type of food has a vegan version that can be found in most supermarkets.

Christmas Dinner

Obviously, vegans will not be tucking into the traditional fare of turkey, chicken, ham, salmon or potatoes cooked in goose fat. If you have invited a vegan to Christmas dinner, then you could simply cook the usual vegetables and combine them with some vegan burgers or sausages, veggie gravy and cranberry sauce. Scrumptious! Remember to avoid using animal ingredients in the preparation and cooking of any foods, sauces or gravy that are intended for your vegan guests. There are also many amazing meat-alternative roasts and nut roasts that are readily available, inexpensive and easy to prepare and cook.

Although it may take a little thought and preparation to buy for a vegan at Christmas, they are sure to be overjoyed that you have gone to the extra effort to include them in the festivities and will appreciate your thoughtfulness in this season of good will.