Food and Drink’s Josie Hart questions whether tradition can be broken by opting for a plant based Christmas dinner
Owning up to being vegetarian or vegan around Christmas time usually results in a bombardment of, ‘It’s not really Christmas without the turkey though’ or ‘You must take a day off for Christmas’. With vegan/vegetarianism on the rise in light of environmental and ethical concerns, the debate has arisen over whether skipping the pigs in blankets or turkey, means the Christmas tradition is lost. But is the essence and spirit of Christmas really lost by opting for a vegan Christmas dinner?
In recent years, food and drink have taken centre stage in the debate surrounding whether Christmas tradition is deteriorating. Take, for example, the scandal over the Starbucks plain red cup. Controversy erupted when Starbucks announced that they would be serving their festive drinks in plain red cup to promote inclusiveness. This shows how passionately some feel that food and drink play a major role in Christmas tradition. But with the spirit of Christmas and family in mind, it can be hard to see why a nut roast should cause controversy at the dinner table.
Asking a sample of students on the University of Birmingham campus whether missing the meat means you’re not having an entirely traditional Christmas, it was found that most could accept the fact that people should be able to adapt as they wish, whilst most noted they would still stick to the meat to make the most of a traditional Christmas dinner. But what does it really mean to have a ‘traditional’ Christmas? If you were to speak to a range of families around the world about their Christmas day antics, it’s inevitable that there would be vast variations in the chosen proceedings. Even in the UK, each person seems to have different ideas about how Christmas is done. Despite the fact that it’s unlikely that anyone truly takes in a summary of a year after a few glasses of celebratory bubbly, some would say watching the Queen’s speech is a Christmas day essential, whilst others are indifferent or unaware of it being on. Similarly, some may not let a Christmas pass without Brussel sprouts, whilst others may deem them too repulsive to even have them on the table. With this in mind, can we determine a right and wrong way to do a traditional Christmas meal?
Even the stereotypical traditional Christmas meal has changed over time. It wasn’t until the 20th century that turkey started to be considered characteristic of a traditional Christmas dinner. Before this, pheasant or goose pies could be found on the table at a Christmas dinner. If ideas of a traditional Christmas dinner have changed in the past, who’s to say that a nut roast, alongside non-vegetarian options, couldn’t become an essential for an inclusive Christmas meal?
Nevertheless, some stay strong with the belief that Christmas isn’t Christmas without the stereo-typically traditional Christmas dinner. Even some vegetarians choose to go ‘flexitarian’ for the day for the sake of maintaining tradition. Regardless of whether you go for a veggie option or are adamant on a traditional bird with all the cuts and trimmings, one tradition that’s non-negotiable and here to stay, is that Christmas Day is to be spent enjoying quality time with loved ones, so maybe pass on the judgement next time someone opts for a meat free meal.