The most magical time of the year is almost here – the time of tinsel, presents, and delicious food. A time for dressing up, pouring another glass of sparkling wine, and laughing with loved ones. But as we load up our plates and choose our party attire, let's not forget that Christmas is a time of kindness and goodwill for all. This includes the animals that we share this planet with, and the environment that they and we live in. Celebrating the holidays in a kind and compassionate way is simpler than it's ever been – but it doesn't just apply to food choices. There are many ways you can make this Christmas a bit kinder, by simply tweaking tradition. See below for some ways to bring Christmas cheer to all species.
Opt for a plant-based menu.
This is perhaps the most powerful action you can take to ensure that your Christmas is compassionate. Choosing to ditch meat and dairy from your festive food offering can have a major impact. Christmas tables around the world kill enormous quantities of animals. In the US alone, 22 million turkeys are killed for holiday dinners every year, while in the UK, around 14 million die. Instead of contributing to raising that number, tuck into a delicious nut roast, a Tofurkey, roasted vegetables, or one of the countless other cruelty-free Christmas delicacies available on offer. For inspiration, see Jamie Oliver's vegan Christmas recipe collection, or pick up a copy of a vegan Christmas cookbook – Gaz Oakley and Karoline Jönsson both offer beautifully illustrated, mouth-watering recipes in their books. For people who live in The Netherlands, try the ''Dubbel Diervriendelijk Kerstmenu'' which can be found on: www.traivegan.com. All the revenue goes to Melief Animal Santuary.
Keep waste to a minimum.
December is one of the most wasteful times of the year – our indulgences over the festive period take a massive toll on the environment. In the UK alone, 42 million dishes of Christmas food are wasted every year, and the gift-wrapping, decorating, and other holiday-themed adornments contribute to mountains of rubbish, too. Be mindful by only buying as much food as you know you need, choose to re-use decorations where possible, and why not wrap your gifts in old newspaper for a unique, vintage feel?
Volunteer at an Animal Shelter or Sanctuary.
A great way to lift your spirits over the festive period, as well as offer tangible help to those who most need it, is to volunteer your time. Offer to help out at an animal shelter or farm animal sanctuary in your area over the Christmas period, and, if you can, bring a donation – whether monetary or in the form of food, blankets, or other supplies that the sanctuary or shelter might need. Not only is it a heart-warming experience to spend time with animals, it's a also a great reminder of why we are dedicated to this cause. Nothing is like looking into the eyes of animals to bring us back to our “why”.
Give the gift of vegan fashion.
True style is compassionate, and if there is a fashionista on your Christmas gifting list, opt for a stylish yet conscious offering free from leather, wool, fur, down or other animal-derived materials. You will be impressed with the quality of materials and garments, not to mention how amazing vegan fashion looks these days – we've come a long way from the days of “pleather”! Go for a pair of A Perfect Jane boots for a truly unforgettable gift.
Cruelty-Free cosmetics, literally a beautiful gift.
Cosmetics isn't the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of veganism – but what we put on our faces has enormous potential to do damage. It is estimated that 300,000 animals are used for cosmetic testing every year in China alone, and despite progress in legislaton, animal testing for cosmetics very much goes on in Europe too. For your festive looks, check the labels for the most trust-worthy cruelty-free cosmetics certifications, such as Cruelty Free International's Leaping Bunny, or PETA's Beauty Without Bunnies logo.
Avoid Christmas markets with live animals.
Reindeer and other live animals are sometimes used at Christmas markets, in a misguided attempt to create a traditionally fairytale-esque atmosphere. This causes the animals enormous stress, as they are traumatised by the lights, loud noise, and being handled by humans. If you visit a Christmas market where a live animal is paraded around, contact the organisers and ask for the market to be animal-free next year.