Photograph by Johanna Frenkel, www.bonappetit.com

So, you’ve recently become a vegan. Whether you started making the transition last year, or two weeks ago, adapting to a new diet and lifestyle around the holidays can be a very trying experience. Many temptations and traditions exist, and it’s easy to fall back into old habits around those you’re closest to.

The first thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. It may be rough business remembering all the things you’re “supposed to” – things like which dishes have butter in them, or what is made using eggs. If you think you’re doing well avoiding the obvious cheese and meat dishes, but flub up forgetting about how your aunt’s pecan pie or those mashed potatoes were made, it’s not the end of the world. You’ll learn for the next holiday feast. Don’t beat yourself up; it’s a work in progress.

Having said that, don’t miss out on the opportunity to ease things up for yourself by preparing a dish you know is vegan and that you think others might enjoy as well. Try something like a vegan version of a holiday staple, such as vegan green bean casserole, or vegan pasta salad. Doing this can make the holiday occasion you’re attending feel more inclusive, and you can show others that you’re proud to transition, and that vegan fare can be just as tasty as non-vegan meals, if not more (as well as more compassionate).

Edgy Veggie columnist Ellen Kanner wrote on Huffington Post that “those of us who like to eat and party well need not suffer,” because eating meat-free is easier than it ever has been. Sometimes vegans don’t have to eschew traditional meals or forgo age-old traditions. “Beloved winter holiday hits go meatless, including vegan holiday cookies spiced with cinnamon and ginger, mock chopped liver (cashew, onion and mushroom pate) and “vegg” nog, thick and rich with almond milk and cashew butter, liberally spiked with rum. The spirit of the season remains but anything animal is excised,” writes Kanner. That’s one holiday party I’d like to attend!

Even if you’re not so luck as that, these days there are an increasing number of vegans around, and as a result many hosts are more sensitive to their vegan friends’ needs – and restaurants nowadays feature at least one vegetarian option (that can often be made vegan), if the holiday outing involves dining away from home. In the end, there are a few good rules of thumb to remember:

1) Be prepared to bring food to share if you’re eating out.

2) Check out great vegan chefs like Bryanna Clark Grogan and Isa Chandra Moskowitz for recipes that will knock the socks off your friends and family.

3) Celebrate compassion and take the opportunities to make new traditions that do the same. Try to chill and not worry too much about offending those you care about. If you explain your reasons gently and clearly you just might find that they are more open to moving to a more compassionate holiday with you!

Happy Holidays to All.