Starbucks New All-Red Cups Brew Controversy

On Nov. 1, 2015, Starbucks Coffee released their new holiday cups for the season. Instead of the cups being decorated with holiday symbols like reindeer and sleighs, the company opted for simpler design this year of two-toned red. Some see this change by Starbucks as offensive or “anti-Christmas.”

There has been quite a bit of cultural controversy over these annual cups that have become somewhat of a tradition since 1997. Before this year’s holiday season, the cups always featured wintery or general holiday designs representative of the season, but those designs have become more simplified in recent years.

Some critics of this decision for simplification have argued that it is Starbucks’ way of “waging war” on Christmas. Some in religious circles mostly fundamentalists and evangelicals, have taken it as the company secularizing the holiday, and self-defined “social media personality and evangelist” Joshua Feuerstein is no exception.

Feuerstein criticized Starbucks in a video posted to Facebook on Nov. 5 that has had over 15 million views and been a large source of controversy. In his video, Feuerstein claimed that Starbucks took the designs off their cups “because they hate Jesus” and are trying too hard to be politically correct.

Although he claims that Starbucks is taking Christmas out of the holidays, they currently sell a “Christmas Blend” coffee, “Merry Christmas” gift card, and a Holiday Advent calendar. Starbucks has never claimed to be a Christian based company, but they still include elements of the holiday in their merchandise.

Feuerstein encouraged others to tell the barista their name is “Merry Christmas” in order to have them write it on the cup. He also started the hashtag #MERRYCHRISTMASSTARBUCKS to “start a movement” instead of boycotting the coffee, as he stated in his video.

Even though some have viewed Feuerstein’s video and chimed in to support, others have stepped in to criticize his claims or defend Starbucks. In a public statement, Starbucks explained its idea for the new design was to mimic a “blank canvas.”

The company’s Vice President of Design and Content Jeffrey Fields said, “Creating a culture of belonging, inclusion, and diversity is one of the core values of Starbucks, and each year during the holidays the company aims to bring customers an experience that inspires the spirit of the season. Starbucks will continue to embrace and welcome customers from all backgrounds and religions in our stores around the world.”

Is Starbucks right to simplify the holiday design? Is it too “politically correct” to exclude symbols of the holiday, even if they are not inherently Christian? Or should they include symbols of holidays from different religions as well? Either way, these new, streamlined cups are here to stay for this year.

Photo by Emma Miller


Infographic by Emma Miller

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