- Tereza Novakova
My First Vegan Christmas Holidays
Christmas can be stressful as it is. All these preparations, all the cooking, present hunting... and the family. Oh, the family. That can be something too, right? To top that all, I went vegan this year and in September and this is how my Christmas went down this year.
First of all, I am an expat. That's just a fancy word for a white privileged immigrant. I moved to Canada three years ago on my own, left my work, friends and family behind. And with that, I have also left the family Christmas behind. To be fair, I haven't celebrated Christmas with my family for years as I always kept it first with the person I was with and only then we would go to the respective families. The last Christmas I spent in the Czech republic was actually the first Christmas in 8 years that I spent at my parents and let me just say that it was intense 😁. Don't get me wrong, I love my family but as each family, we have our own drama and this drama, I somehow (at least to deal with in person) left behind in Czech republic. I can only imagine how it would go down if I was there now and spent the Christmas Eve with my parents to whom I haven't came out as vegan yet. It would be interesting to say the least.
My sisters and I are still very close despite the distance. We went for some more symbolic presents - I got a "Simpson Happy Czech Pea" character and an online feminist magazine subscription. Plus contribution to a rescue on behalf of each other. Best-sisters-EVER!
My Canadian Christmas has now become about spending it with the closest of friends that I have. Nothing big, nothing fancy. Juste the 4 of us trying to still somehow adhere to the whole new Covid reality we live in. And then also a separate dinner with my best friend here. As much as chill and cool our time together is, I won't lie - I was worried about this Christmas. First of all, I was the host - coming up with food to eat for my friends that they would appreciate and it would still "pass" the critical eye of non-vegans. Secondly, I was worried that the presents I would get wouldn't be vegan. How do you approach such situations then? How do you politely tell someone that it's nice that they had the thought to get you something but it's not vegan? The animal rights are close to my heart and so are my friends... In this part, I was blessed with my friends. Despite some little joking around as I went vegan at the beginning, they all just surprised me with the best Christmas presents and they were all... VEGAN! And also my other friends outside of this group, I had all vegan Christmas, how lucky am I? Is it where you would use the "blessed" hashtag? 😁
Now, the first concern that I had was the cooking. I think that holidays in general are in most cultures all about the food. In Czech republic, it's not just the dinner but also the Christmas cookies. I remember my grandma's would make dozens of different shapes and types. I sucked, I went just for 4 this year. Two of them, the Vanilla Crescents and Linzer Cookies, are on my blog already. I say it all the time and it did apply to these too - anything, I repeat it - ANYTHING, can be veganized. And these cookies were a total blast. Yes, the taste is a bit different from the "original" but they are cruelty free and that's priceless. And seeing that my friends still appreciated even those veganized ones was a treat for me on it's own.
Another thing is the eggnog. To my horror, moving to Canada I realized that people DO drink a non-alcoholic eggnog here! Like... what's the point of eggnog if there's no alcohol in it, right? I admit, that's the Czech in me talking. So... the challenge was to make it vegan. I won't lie, this was my very first veganizing failure and the content of whatever it was supposed to be went straight down the toilet. However, I did eventually manage to make a drink, that would resemble to the eggnog I was used to. I basically used the same logic as I initially did for the Biscoff cheesecake. I have soaked some cashew nuts over night and started with the same amount of plant-based milk as in the cheesecake recipe to then continue adding on to get close-ish to the consistency I strived for but not quite yet. I would add maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract and... white rhum, of course! It is not the same thing as the "real" eggnog but it's still quite delicious!
We kept the dinner untraditionally traditional. In Czech republic, we would either have a typical "wedding soup" or a fish soup to start, then fried carp with potato salad as the main thing. We don't really have dessert as we have all those cookies that we would eat while unwrapping the presents after the dinner. Our Canadian vegan dinner was then modified - a green pea creamy soup, vegan potato salad and vegan "chicken nuggets". I never really ate fish anyways so in my meat-eater days I would replace the fish with chicken so these vegan bits seemed to be the perfect thing to go for. And they were!
I have an unhealthy obsession with the potato salad. You can check my Instagram post on the subject that also explains how to make it. This year, I made 3 (!!!!) batches! And no, most of it wasn't eaten by my friends. But I did enjoy sharing it with them! This is where I realize, writing this, how much I matured. I do get to the age when I realize that sharing is caring haha.
Canadian labor law is not as generous when it comes to vacation days as the Czech one, however I have been very lucky with the employer I have. We were given 2 weeks of paid leave (not deduced from our holiday fund). I do realize that this is still the white "Christian" culture privilege that I benefit from and it does sadden me that the same is not applied to other holidays as per how people celebrate them. However, I won't bash on what I got even though I was the first one to complain that we got too many days off. I was horrified by the idea that I would stay at home, everything closed due to Covid, most of my friends working... BUT, again, I was very lucky. Finally I managed to get occupied pretty much every day and in the end I would even go for a third week off if I could!
After Christmas, Bobi and I got taken to a winter wonderland getaway at Lac Saint-Jean. Words cannot describe how beautiful the winter is there! If it was just for the "cottage" we stayed at and the view we had, or the hikes we went for, it was just amazing! Have a look at some of the photos and judge for yourself!
I was actually about to sum up the article now but I just realized I haven't covered how I approached buying presents for my friends. First of all, I am a late present buyer. When I say late, I really mean it. I started a week before (not even) the day we set up for our Christmas with my friends. When I had my best friend messaging me that she got the first present for me somewhere in September and then again every time she found something, I was freaking out! But I work really well under stress and I dare to say that I got for everyone a present that would match their personality and would still be vegan. Yey! :) These are some of the beauties I was blessed with by my friends.
So now, we can get to the summary, haha! As much as the present chasing and coming up with the menu and cookie recipes were stressful, I have had one of the best Christmases ever! I have posted less, I have checked my social media less, I have put everything on pause and lived in the moment. I am surrounded by some amazing people and that's what counts. I hope that wherever you are and whichever holiday you celebrate, you are as lucky as I am and get all the love and understanding that you deserve!
PS: Yes, my Christmas tree is going to be standing at least till end of February!