One Freedom writer looks into the origins of the long-running DIY vegan alternative to Boxing Day — and we talk to one of the people who came up with it.
A few years ago members of a radical housing co-op I was helping with, spending their first Christmas in the newly-bought building, found themselves looking for a way to celebrate the occasion.
As is often the case in radical co-ops, particularly in Britain, this one had a high number of vegans and vegetarians. As radicals this meant there was some experience of hunt-sabbing and animal rights activism, members had visited Earth First! and generally maintained links to what was, in the early 2000s, the climate change and green direct action movement.
The idea they hit on was International Pizza Punk Day, which had first been dreamt up in 1997 in Switzerland as an alternative activity for December 26th. From humble beginnings it had, in that way ideas among transitory summit-hoppers of the time often did, spread far beyond its original roots.
On International Pizza Punk Day, the division between struggle and pleasure, between total insurrection and festival, will be dismantled as we bake the vegan pizza of our desires into reality …
Spun into the air in 1997 by a group of orphan caravan punks in Switzerland, International Pizza Punk Day supercedes the regressive christian holiday and blasts off towards a world based on mutual aid and cooperation. It is a holiday for the orphans of the world, those orphaned from their parents or orphaned from society.
Like flying solidarity pickets, small cells take local action (preparing vegan pizzas according to anarchist principles) to form a global web of unstoppable pizza-punk resistance!! National borders and stereotypes melt like faux “cheese” as we (if only for ONE day) UNITE as the pizza punx of the world!!!
Armed with a grain of salt and the cultural cookbook of the DIY and punk movement, we rise above the restrictive appetites of consumerism, sectarianism, geographical and ethnic backgrounds, alienation and dis-empowerment. We are left only with ourselves, the ingredients for a full pizza-making workshop and THE STRUGGLE.
The beauty of the idea, for the newly-housed and totally skint co-operativists, was its simplicity – with a bit of dough, anyone can show up with a spare topping and join in on a big, warm community meal. Though the travelling, punk and crusty movement that first embraced it has waned, and the growth of veganism generally has in some ways undermined its original premise, people in tucked-away corners of the world do still gather for a DIY feast.
Interview with a pizza punk
M Em Minnick is admin of the IPPD facebook page, and also happens to be a founder of the chow ciao. To mark the big anniversary we asked him a couple of questions…
Freedom: Can you say a bit more about how it all started?
MEM: In 1997 I was dating a woman in Switzerland and had visited her town during the winter holiday season. Being anarchists, we of course didn’t buy into all this virgin birth nonsense but were at a loss as to what to do with ourselves as most everything was closed and everyone disappeared to visit their families. Luckily we were invited to the caravan of a some local punks who lived on a traveller site for some pizza on December 26th.
They had ironically baked a big huge vegan pizza in the shape of a Christmas tree and I just thought it was the best thing ever. In fact, sitting there with all these punx who for whatever reason didn’t have a family to visit, listening to music, sharing drinks and eating pizza, I thought this was a much better way to celebrate some of the darkest days of winter … and no-one has to die for it to happen.
Do you know of any particularly big events which took place over the last couple decades?
So I started celebrating and publicising International Pizza Punk Day as an alternative to the Christian holiday. I mean, if the Christians can co-opt Saturnalia, then we can do it to them! People we knew in Scotland, New Zealand and all over the shop started having informal vegan pizza making workshops in their homes or in squatted social centres and sharing stories and recipes.
You have to remember in the ’90s, people knew what veganism was but it was in no way as popular or as trendy as it is now and pizza has always been the ultimate no-go area for vegan recipes as cheese is such a quintessential ingredient. Thus we knew the path ahead of us was filled with struggle as well as celebration. IPPD celebrations in the UK were very linked to the squat scene of the time, and I don’t have so many vivid memories of the events because I was most likely pissed to the gills and dancing to punk and disco.
One that stands out is in Wellington New Zealand and a bunch of us cross-dressing and handing out vegan pizza slices to perplexed members of the public just on a whim.
Could you give a few of your own thoughts on the general ethos behind it?
IPPD is very much a product of the DIY punk movement … and the idea that if you don’t like the way something is being done … then do it yourself!
It’s also about forming close-knit groups that come together even if just to socialise and work on a community project together. IPPD was formed for those that want to celebrate imidst the darkness, even when they have no family close at hand or at all, because we create our own families by those we choose to fill our lives with and cooperate with. Most of all, IPPD is an exercise in MUTUAL AID. The events are free and participants need only bring one ingredient for a vegan pizza and then get stuck in in the making of the pizza of their desires!
Back in the day the cooking options for vegans were somewhat limited, but as the food phenomenon of the noughties, we are now overwhelmed with ideas and advice. As such, we’ve left our pizzary advice to the experts: