Of cups and Christians: How Starbucks stole Christmas

My name is Melissa, and I’m an addict. A coffee addict, that is.

My love of coffee has taken over every aspect of my life—including holiday traditions.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is waking up early on Christmas break Saturdays. The hint of colored light and coffee aroma sneaking under my bedroom door tells me my dad is already awake, contemplating his Christmas masterpiece—better known as the Christmas tree—over a cup of coffee.

Still pajamafied, I dart out of my room, make a beeline for the Keurig, and join my father on the couch. He pauses to judge me for polluting my coffee with peppermint mocha creamer before resuming a classic Christ- mas sport: blowing on the tinsel from across the living room.

Many Americans have their own traditions in which Christmas and coffee intersect. For those with larger wallets and less judgmental fathers—if cream is judged, lattes are sinful—Starbucks is at the heart of that tradition.

Starbucks, too, has a holiday tradition: every year, a special-edition holiday cup—red, with cutesy holiday drawings—serves as a vessel of holiday classics such as peppermint mochas and caramel brulee lattes. This year, Starbucks did something scandalous: they replaced skiing reindeer with a simple, red ombre design.

Naturally, everyone was outraged. Especially Christians.

The ombre abomination was clearly part of Starbucks’ master plan to discredit Christmas and Christianity. My Facebook newsfeed was soon filled with shared posts from both sides of “Cupgate 2015.” A pleasing number of these took my own stance: This is ridiculous.

Starbucks did not forget Christmas. They aren’t trying to. They still recognized the holiday season with a red cup, and their stores are full of a limited-time blend festively named “Christmas Blend.” Not holiday, Hanukkah or Kwanza. Christmas.

Let’s be honest: the customers of Starbucks, in the United States and worldwide, practice a vast number of religions. Many of them celebrate holidays in the last two weeks of December. By choosing a plain red design, Starbucks ensures that they aren’t alienating anyone’s holiday of choice. It’s just good business, plain and simple.

But the red cup isn’t the issue here: it’s the Christian response. I personally don’t know of any Christians offended by the Starbuck’s cup. Is the media making this up? Probably not. There are plenty of conservative denominations that have gotten hot and bothered over less.

Today’s American Christians are operating under this assumption that we’re being persecuted by our culture. Sure—they discredit and mock us at every chance they get. But the point is: we’re fully responsible for this.

Like the rest of our culture, we find insults hidden around every corner. Any “anti-Christian” action sends us running to blogs and social media to decry the falling skies.

The media loves our herd hysteria. In the heads of media professionals, there’s an informal list of topics that are sure to get you good ratings. It probably looks something like this:

• Kim Kardashian
• Terrorism
• Butthurt Christians
The upshot of this, of course, is that the American public sees Christians as emotional, hysterical mob that wants to suck the fun out of the world. Is that how we want them to see us? Of course not. We want to be—and should be—depicted as a loving, grace-filled people living lives of service to God and man.

It’s not even a PR problem for us— it’s a heart problem. Why are we wasting our time fighting a festive red cup, when there are problems like hunger, human trafficking and disease? We ought to be focusing our time and energy on problems that really matter—I’m pretty sure a reindeer-less cup if the poster child of “first-world problem.”

If you still feel the need to boycott Starbucks, why not take the $5 you save by passing on that venti peppermint mocha and use it to fill a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child? Or drop it into the Salvation Army bell-ringer’s also-plain-red bucket? Giving to others is a far better way to get into the Christmas spirit; do you find that same joy in your chestnut praline latte?

While we’re busy getting wrapped up in a controversy over a red cup, we’re forgetting the best gift that was ever wrapped up—a gift wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger 2000 years ago.

Don’t let the Starbucks Grinch steal your Christmas joy. If a snowman on your latte matters that much to you, you’ve missed the meaning of Christmas. God’s love did not come to us in a sleigh, a snowman or a red cup: it came to us in a tiny baby. That’s the true meaning of Christmas.

Melissa Luby, Online Editor

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