Holidays, particularly those that revolve around family and friends, are notoriously hard on relationships. Everyone has their own own expectations of what the "real" celebration should look and feel like. Invariably, this leads to disappointment, because reality doesn't always bend to our preferences or wishes.
Many people are indoctrinated with nostalgic sentiment and idealistic imaginings about the holidays. For instance, we often like to think that we'll finally get along with estranged family members, annoying coworkers, or marginalized friends. When our hopes are dashed, frustration and anger can ensue.
It was thoughtful and considerate of your friend to offer to prepare a vegan Thanksgiving meal. Your friendship must be very important to her, and she obviously respects your convictions, even though she doesn't share them. When family or friends of vegans are adamant about having a meat-centered celebration, they usually are making several unspoken assertions:
But if friends or family members are willing to sacrifice the vegan's attendance because they want to maintain the "turkey tradition," they are in essence stating that the food or the preferences of other guests take precedence over the vegan's company.
Many vegans and vegetarians are deeply upset by the sight of a dead animal at the hub of a festive occasion. For activists who work all year long to educate others about the horrors of the slaughter industries, this can be especially distressing. In a world where cadavers are prayed over and buried, not displayed, a vegan is more likely to grieve than rejoice.
Oftentimes meat eaters believe that vegans should be satisfied as long as they have something to eat. They may be blissfully unaware that, for vegans, watching people gnaw on the body parts of animals causes anguish and revulsion. They may not have considered that a vegan feast offends no one; everyone can partake because there is nothing abhorrent about not serving products of death. In addition, when all guests share the same food, instead of the vegan being served something different, it adds to a sense of conviviality and fellowship.
If the group had a history of spending Thanksgiving together, they may have felt that a vegan event would spoil their established custom. They may have thought your friend was showing favoritism and were offended that perhaps she prefers you over them. Also, the way your friend informed the other people may have influenced their response.
Many meat eaters know very little about vegan food and have preconceived notions that vegans subsist on lettuce and carrot sticks -- which isn't very appetizing fare for a feast. So perhaps they were indignant, thinking that a vegan repast would leave them feeling hungry and deprived. If the gathering was to be a potluck, they may have been overwhelmed or incensed by the thought of having to prepare something unusual. In any event, they may have felt hoodwinked into supporting something they don't understand or don't care about.
If the event was to be a conventional sit-down dinner or buffet where the host does all the cooking, it may not have been necessary to inform the guests in advance or even at all. When vegan fare is sufficiently diverse and delicious, few people notice that anything is “missing" unless it is pointed out to them.
Even though you were the catalyst for the change in menu and feel lousy about the aftermath, you are not responsible for your best friend's feelings or for the callous treatment she received from her other friends. True friendship doesn't dissolve the instant something goes awry. People who care about each other talk things out, try to understand the other's point of view, and give as well as take. Her fair-weather pals failed miserably when their friendship was put to the test. Even if they felt that you were being given preferential treatment or that your friend favored you over them, it doesn't excuse their immature or insensitive behavior.
Your friend made a choice to support you and defend your beliefs. There was no guarantee the rest of the group would be receptive. She took a risk on your behalf, but that doesn't make you culpable for the outcome. You can demonstrate your gratitude by comforting your friend and offering solace and a sympathetic ear. However, you can't erase the pain and heartache she feels over her friends' rancor. It's unfortunate that you are bearing the brunt of this sad situation, but the discord is between her and her other friends. They are the ones who must be held accountable for the dissolution or recovery of their relationship, not you.