Being vegan or vegetarian any day of the year comes with its challenges. Whether it’s spending extra hours at the grocery store reading labels, trying to maintain a balanced diet, budgeting for pricey meat-free alternatives or dealing with the weird look you get from the delivery guy when you order a pizza without cheese, it takes dedication. There is one day of the year that tests your dedication as a vegan or vegetarian like no other: Thanksgiving. Every year, longtime and new-to-the-game vegans and vegetarians all over the country are confronted with the one day of the year that focuses almost entirely on eating a big, dead bird. How does one deal?

Mark O’Connell of Taking Back Sunday says forgoing the turkey on Thanksgiving is no problem; he just enjoys the vegetarian sides his family cooks (mashed potatoes being his favorite), but the one tough thing about the day can be when family members don’t understand his diet. “Four or five drinks in, people’s noses are getting more red, and that’s when it starts getting a little bit annoying,” says O'Connell. “Other than that, they’re pretty cool with it. They just want to fuck with me a little bit.” However, O’Connell makes a point not to push his beliefs on his family and expects in turn not to be bombarded with their views, either. “So people wanna eat meat. Go ahead if that’s what you enjoy, but show me the same respect when I’m not eating meat,” the drummer says. “Don’t ask me why and say that it’s womanly or blah, blah. Don’t ask me for an hour and a half why I don’t— because I just don’t fucking want to.”

Vegetarian Chris Martin of Hostage Calm looks forward to the Tofurky (i.e. tofu turkey) he brings to his family’s house ever year. Although he never wants to wage a war at the dinner table, he likes to subtly affect meat-eating family members’ view of Thanksgiving. “You’d be surprised if you had your family try a piece [of Tofurky],” says the frontman. “A lot of times they’re like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe this is so good.’ They just haven’t been exposed to it. It’s a cool thing when you’re at Thanksgiving, to be able to set an example based on your own personal beliefs and your own ethics by what you’re eating, and I think other people take notice. It makes other people think critically about what they eat and what Thanksgiving should mean. Should it be a day where we’re taking lives and being sort of greedy? Or a day where we’re being grateful for life?”



Fourteen-year vegan Davey Havok of Blaqk Audio and AFI is lucky enough to have people in his life that are understanding of his vegan lifestyle. Havok says although his mom didn’t immediately embrace the politics of it, she always made vegan versions of his favorite Thanksgiving dishes, like the Havok-family “bread ball.” (You’d have to ask Momma Havok for the recipe.)

Havok recalls one Thanksgiving spent on tour in which he still received warm, kind accommodation. “When we were on the road, being vegan, it was rare that we were able to eat anything at Thanksgiving, at all. We were in upstate New York, and Snapcase guitarist Frank Vicario took us into his home, and his mom made us a bunch of pasta,” says the singer. “For a bunch of starving kids on the road on Thanksgiving already sullen over not being able to be in a warm, dry place… to be brought into that scenario with open arms and then actually being able to eat was such a comfort and a joy. I’ll always remember that act of kindness.”

Havok adds, if you’re in a situation where you’re looked down upon for your diet, make more friends who understand why you do what you do and share your holiday meals with them, especially if, like Havok, you don’t exactly pride yourself on your cooking. “I have lots of friends that are vegan, and they’ll make an entire array of traditional Thanksgiving foods, entrees and sides, all in a vegan fashion, which is not that difficult to do, certainly in relation to making the non-vegan version and are very very delicious and far healthier and also cruelty-free.”

Miss May I frontman Levi Benton, who also admits he’s no Emeril Lagasse, is spending his first Thanksgiving as a vegetarian around vegan chefs that know what they’re doing. “I just got a house before this tour, so when we were moving in, I knew about the AP Tour already, so I was planning around being home for Thanksgiving so we didn’t have to spend it at Golden Corral,” says Benton. “We’re going to have a bunch of people over and make it feel like home as much as possible since we all live on the road.”

Benton says there will be roughly 20 people in attendance, one of which will be fellow vegetarian Aaron Brooks, guitarist of The Ghost Inside. Brooks says, “Our merch guy is a really really good cook and our bass player is a pretty good cook, too, so the two guys from our band and Levi’s mom are going to make a big Thanksgiving dinner… Levi said he’s going to go out and get all the food for everybody, as long as someone else volunteers to cook it.”

Brooks says if you can’t be with friends or family who want to make food you can eat and enjoy, it comes down to you to make the most of the day. “I could definitely sympathize with people who are in a situation where no one wants to cater to them,” says the guitarist. “But if that’s the case, find something you like and cook it for yourself.” This could be something as simple as spaghetti, sauce and Boca crumbles. Or if you totally refuse to set foot in the kitchen, national chain Whole Foods has complete vegan and vegetarian meals you can pre-order. “Sitting around pouting about it is just going to make you not have a good day,” says Brooks. “So if no one else wants to do it, make it yourself and eat it at the table with the people you’re with.”