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Starbucks cups brew up controversy

Evidence of the holiday season is clear in the increase in family gatherings, giving thanks, selflessness and, apparently, the need for festive Starbucks cups. 

On Nov. 3, Starbucks released its 2015 holiday cup design: a simple red gradient. Ostensibly, this is the most disrespectful gesture anyone could make during the holidays, based on the arguments from a handful of Christians who seem to believe Starbucks is attempting to remove “Christ from Christmas.”

In the past, the Starbucks’ red holiday cups featured designs such as snowmen, ice skaters, reindeer and snowflakes, none of which favor Christmas over any other holiday. So why does a plain red cup automatically mean Starbucks’ has it out for Christmas, specifically?

According to a Facebook post by public figure and evangelical Christian Joshua Feuerstein, “Starbucks removed Christmas from their cups because they hate Jesus.”

In an attached video, Feuerstein went on to dare “great Americans and Christians” to give the name “Merry Christmas” when ordering their coffee, thus “tricking” Starbucks employees into writing the holiday greeting on their bare cups.

Not only is this demand childish, it’s also the antithesis of spreading holiday cheer. When did “tricking” others and arguing over cups come to replace a holiday full of mirth, helping others and expressing generosity? 

Granted, people find joy during the holidays in different ways, and for some, that may be Starbucks. Enjoying a tall Peppermint Mocha from a cup garnished with designs of mistletoe and sleigh bells could mean everything to someone. 

For those who celebrate the holidays as inherently religious, any notion of increased holiday spirit may provide them with another reminder of why they rejoice and give thanks. However, if a cup without a snowman causes someone to feel the holidays are lost forever, his or her priorities should be reevaluated.

As a Catholic who celebrates Christmas as a religious holiday, I am not personally offended by the lack of snowflakes on my Starbucks cup and have honestly never previously dwelled on the holiday cups other than to briefly notice some charming design or another. 

This year’s cup is classy and sophisticated, which is, of course, everything a cup should be. Starbucks understands it has customers who don’t associate religion with the holiday season and simply want a cup of coffee in the winter. The unadorned red cup remains neutral. 

“This year we wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories,” Starbucks’ vice president of Design and Content, Jeffrey Fields said. “We’re embracing the simplicity and the quietness of it. It’s (a) more open way to usher in the holiday.”

With all the social issues plaguing the world today, it really isn’t necessary to argue over a cup that will disappear in a few months. Instead of counting on Starbucks to make or break the holiday season, embracing the true meaning of the holidays by spreading cheer would be a huge, merry favor.


Tea Piro is a freshman majoring in mass communications.