Thanksgiving celebration takes a vegan twist

Vegans met at Seventh Day Adventist Church for a meat-free Thanksgiving dinner organized by the Public Eye. While some were feasting with their families on Thanksgiving Day, a select few decided to engage in a

Vegans met at Seventh Day Adventist Church for a meat-free Thanksgiving dinner organized by the Public Eye.

While some were feasting with their families on Thanksgiving Day, a select few decided to engage in a less meaty tradition. A group met at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Chestnut Hill to begin its second annual vegan Thanksgiving.

“There are a lot of vegan Thanksgivings now,” said Lisa Levinson, event organizer and member of Public Eye. “It’s a trend that’s increasing because there are people who want to celebrate the holidays in a way that’s not objective to their beliefs.”

The dinner was held by Public Eye, a Philadelphia-area group that holds events featuring the arts and focuses on the interactions between human and nonhuman animals, and by the Vegan Spirituality Group, a group of people who get together to discuss the positives of veganism.

“It all started about three years ago,” Levinson said of the group. “We met once a month and began a potluck and discussion group. We decided on a retreat to focus on the question–what does vegan spirituality mean? And we had guided meditation and hiking and after the first retreat, one of the members decided on a dinner to see one another before the following year, so we decided to get together for Thanksgiving.”

The dinner has also garnered a lot of positive feedback and outcomes according to Levinson.

“Very, very positive feedback,” the seven-year vegan said. “Last year, a lot of people returned and even a family from Vermont visited.”

The dinner began at 4 p.m. and was held in a room in the church. After a few minutes of setting up the tables with tablecloths and adding a long one to showcase the food, the dinner began. A number of people, including couples and families, attended and each brought a dish.

“I initially became a vegan because there was just something in me that just made me hate meat,” Romelle Johnson, an 11-year vegan and member of the Vegan Spirituality Group, said.

“It was always conflicting to me that my mother fried chicken and fortunately she never made me eat it. One day I decided I’m just not gonna eat it anymore, so I didn’t.”

Johnson also addressed the health benefits of veganism.

“Since I have become a vegan, I haven’t had weight problems or problems with my gallbladder like I used to,” Johnson said. “Before I began being a vegan, I was on three or four heart medications and now I’m only on one or two.”

Sandi Herman, another member of the Vegan Spirituality group, also spoke about how she loved veganism and the physical and emotional benefits of it.

“I feel like this is the best thing I ever did and I just feel so much better in my heart and spirit,” Herman said, who has been vegan for 24 years.

“I ate more dairy when I became a vegetarian because I didn’t know what to do with

myself,” Herman said. “I really learned a lot more about food when I became one [a vegan].”

Another member of the group, Andrea Dade, also cited health benefits as a reason she decided to become a vegan.

“I have been one since about ’06 and before that, I was doing seafood since ‘02,” Andrea said. “I did it because of many health reasons and just to eat in a way that made sense and I wanted to know what I was eating. I wanted to make choices for myself.”

Each of these women prepared a dish for the meal. Johnson made roasted beets with Hawaiian sea salt and Dade made southern chinese fusion of collard greens, red onions and garlic.

Other dishes at the dinner included roasted brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes with yeast and peppers, Tofurky with vegan gravy, lemon tofu, sweet potatoes and vegan cornbread.

After Levinson went to the microphone at the top of the room and introduced the dinner, people wasted no time grabbing plates and circulating the table to get their food. As people grabbed their food, members handed out papers featuring the Vegan Serenity Prayer and song that would be sung later in the dinner.

Johnson spoke about her work at the John Heins Refuge for Animals and the safety of the uneaten turkeys.

“They’re fat, happy, juicy and protected,” Johnson said.

Alexsia Brown can be reached at

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