The Cup Controversy

When Nov. 1 rolls around, people anticipate making a trip to Starbucks. When customers order a hot beverage at Starbucks this time of the year, their drink comes in a red holiday cup.

Starting in 1997, Starbucks began serving all of its holiday beverages in a unique and special cup. And every year, the Starbucks red cups receive a large amount of publicity.

There is even a website, countdowntoredcups.com, that does just as the name suggests. This website has an interactive countdown of the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the return of the red cups. Starbucks reported that in the 48 hours after releasing the 2014 design, a photo of the red cup was posted on Instagram every 14 seconds.

Each year the design varies, but this year’s look has changed considerably from previous years. There aren’t any Christmas trees, snowmen, or reindeer to decorate the cup.

Instead, they are plain red.

This season’s cups became an issue on social media mainly because of an angry customer, conservative Internet personality Joshua Feuerstein, who posted a video of himself ranting about Starbucks’ lack of Christmas spirit. This video has become known as “Starbucks War on Christmas.”

Feuerstein even challenged viewers to say their name was “Merry Christmas,” so the employees would be forced to scribble “Merry Christmas” on the cups.

However, Starbucks defends their current minimalist design.

“Starbucks has become a place of sanctuary during the holidays, we’re embracing the simplicity and the quietness of it. It’s a more open way to usher in the holiday,” said Jeffery Fields, Starbucks vice president of design and content, in a statement last week.

Yes, the cups are simple and plain, but they are cups; they still hold the same amount of coffee as before. A lack of Christmas paraphernalia does not mean Starbucks executives and employees are against celebrating Christmas. It simply means they decided to design the cups differently this year, in order to promote simplicity. The statements suggest that Starbucks wants customers to build their own traditions and create their own personal stories.

Starbucks even invites customers to draw on their blank cups to create their own story. This is similar to the White Cup Contest in 2014. This was a contest where customers were encouraged to grab a pen and doodle on their blank canvas of a cup. Once the custom design was complete, they posted a photo to social media. The winning design was created into a reusable cup that is sold online and in stores today.

There are also much more important issues to worry about than whether or not a coffee cup has either a snowflake or reindeer on it.

This issue of the cups has become a big deal because of a few people on social media. Sure, there are people who believe Starbucks is trying to take Christ out of Christmas, just as the “Starbucks War on Christmas” video suggests. But, are all Christians concerned with this? Or is it only a few people who have gained an audience based on their strong-worded posts and videos?

The “Starbucks War on Christmas” video currently has 16,433,454 views on Facebook and 189,346 likes.

This video has gained attention either because people think it is both accurate and true or because it is entertaining and funny. From what I’ve heard, most people agree with the latter.

Even Donald Trump has commented on this situation, which may point to the ludicrousness of the whole controversy.

“Did you read about Starbucks? No more Merry Christmas on Starbucks. Maybe we should boycott Starbucks. I don’t know. Seriously, I don’t care,” Trump said.

The cups have never said, “Merry Christmas.” In the past, they had snowmen, ornaments, Christmas lights, and reindeer, but never specifically mentioned Christmas.

The media has created stories that link all Christians to this type of untrue thinking and behavior. Not all Christians need a snowman on their coffee cup; in fact, most, like me, just want a cup that will hold their coffee.

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