The Big Red Debate

Starbucks christmas mug is just plain red

Photo: The Federalist

Starbucks. If ever there was a lesson in commercialisation, Starbucks would be the company to give it.

With their Egg-Nogg Lattés, Pumpkin Spice Lattés, and summer cold brews, Starbucks know how to make the most of any time of the year. This weekend, though, that seems to have backfired.

Or has it?

Unless you have been living under a rock, you will know Starbucks have landed themselves in a sticky situation. When I say “unless you have been living under a rock”, I mean to highlight the ridiculous upsurge in this issue, when there are so many other things in the world to be concerned about.

For those of you less informed, I will briefly update you. Starbucks’ annual red cup reveal has been pelted with criticisms for its apparently “un-Christmas” look.

The mug is, well, red, but unlike previous editions it fails to feature anything “Christmas-y” on it; elves, snowflakes, snowmen, presents, ribbons, Santa – you know, everything in the Bible stories.

Because of this, consumers have taken it upon themselves to get the words “Merry Christmas” written on their mugs instead of their names.

Indeed, one customer, Joshua Feuerstein from Arizona, made a video which has since gone viral across Facebook, accusing Starbucks of pretty much hating Jesus.

He said: “The cup is symbolic of a larger war against Christianity in this country. The policemen of political correctness have demanded that the silent majority bend its knee to a vocal minority.”

This last point is an intriguing one. Partly because a recent survey by Pew Research revealed there are a decreasing number of religious people in the USA, with the number of people claiming to be unaffiliated with any religion rising by 6.7% between 2007 and 2014.

Thus, the customers of Starbucks are increasingly less inclined to believe in a particular faith, but even more so there are a growing number of different religious demographics in the USA. Is it not, then, a reflection of people’s own choices, rather than an institutionalised witch-hunt?

From what I can tell, Starbucks has never had “Merry Christmas” on its mugs, simply various Christmas graphics. Nevertheless, “Merry Christmas” does not take into account the different religions who do not celebrate Christmas; Jews would want the mug to say Happy Hanukkah, and others such as Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs who do not celebrate at Christmas time.

From my perspective, if you need a coffee chain to be the ambassador of Christianity, you need to re-evaluate your faith. Furthermore, I empathise with Starbucks’ response.

They say they are encouraging creativity on the part of their customers, because they believe coffee-drinkers like to doodle on their mugs. It just adds to the whole “personalisation” message Starbucks is famous for.

“In the past, we have told stories with our holiday cups designs,” Jeffrey Fields, Starbucks vice president of Design & Content, said in a statement. “This year we wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories.”

On the other hand, imagine they had put “Merry Christmas” on their mugs: would they need to make “Happy holidays”, and “Happy Hanukkah” mugs too? That is not commercially viable.

But this idea of a “war on Christianity” is nonsensical. Seventy percent of the US population is Christian, and so it is madness that corporations would shun the vast, vast majority of their customers. However, in the modern globalised world, why not allow for a little diversity?

If kicking-up about a red mug is a show of piety, then a lot of people need to take a hard look at themselves. Sure, it is a commercial stunt, but it is probably even more of a success now such vast attention has been given to this little cylinder of red.

Heck! The colour red was not even widely associated with Christmas until Coca-Cola claimed St. Nick! Ultimately, diversity is not a threat to religion, and it should not be possible for a coffee-chain to say whether you are following the right or wrong religion.

If that is what it has come to, corporations have won. Drink a coffee, celebrate as you wish, and move on. Also, care about something better than a coffee mug, as Demi Lovato said: “why do we care this much about a cup?”


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