Celebrating the Holidays and Honouring Your Values
Those who defend the consumption of animals on the basis of culture and tradition seem to imply that we’re entitled to do whatever we want simply because it brings us pleasure – or comfort. Not only does this presume there is no pleasure to be found in rejecting such products, it also presumes there is no victim – or that if there is one, considerations for him or her are secondary to fulfilling our own desires. … Just because we are capable of doing something doesn’t mean we should do it. Just because we have always done something doesn’t mean we have to keep doing it. One of the ways we progress as a society is by deciding that once-acceptable behaviours are no longer acceptable, particularly when they harm someone else. Present laws are windows into a past littered with cruel and offensive practices. Once we know better, we do better.
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, 30 Day Vegan Challenge
Day 26 is about holiday traditions. Unsurprisingly, the emphasis is on American traditions like Thanksgiving and Halloween, but the general principle is valid and can be applied almost anywhere. We like traditional holidays because they appear to keep us linked to our past; they provide a sense of continuity and familiarity, they help us to hold onto values we say we believe in as a culture, a community or even as a family. Yet, traditions change and adapt over the years, even though we like to pretend they don’t.
Holidays accumulate traditions many of which have to do with food. We saturate this ‘traditional’ food with symbolism and cultural necessity. When we become vegan much of the food traditions that shape these holidays have to change. Colleen argues that what we need to do is to revisit what that food represents for us. Then, find new ways to express the meaning rather than remaining fixated on the representation, which is what a lot of people do.
Here in New Zealand the main traditional holiday, of the type Colleen is talking about, is Christmas. My forebears brought it with them from the Northern Hemisphere, and rather than changing the date to sometime in July to still have a winter festival, they kept the date. This means that Christmas falls near the beginning of Summer. Christmas still has a lot of the traditional trappings from the United Kingdom like trees, presents, the Xmas ham, decorations shaped like snowflakes and holly and Santa. But it was adapted. We should similarly adapt holiday traditions to reflect our situation, our values and who we say we are, not have traditions hold us hostage. Despite how strong the grip of tradition and culture may be, we still deserve to enjoy the holidays. Keep what we value and adapt the rest.