Written by: Will Lofsky
Starbucks’ Christmas cups first debuted in 1997. The cups featured a jazz-themed design in jewel tones of deeper reds, greens and blues and were introduced to become a symbol of the holiday season. At this point, everything was okay in the world for Starbucks. Fun fact: the former CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, is Jewish.
There’s been an awful lot of steam over Starbucks’ Christmas coffee cups. The idea for the first Christmas cup was to encourage holiday cheer, and bring people together. And it succeeded—for a while. Since 2009, Starbucks’ Christmas cups have dramatically evolved from festive, bright red holiday designs up until 2015—when the Christmas cup controversy began. The public became very upset over their recycled paper cups that were to be drank from, and then subsequently discarded forever.
In 2015 Starbucks made their plain, two-toned red cups to be all-inclusive of people from all different backgrounds that celebrate different holidays. On Nov. 9, 2015, Joshua Feuerstein, a former pastor, commented that Starbucks removed Christmas from their cups because they “hate Jesus...” Yes, he actually said that.
The notoriously, evangelist Internet personality posted a video on Facebook that was viewed 17 million times which led to a movement against Starbucks. The video has since been deleted by Feuerstein, among the other following commentary. The second video has been re-uploaded by another user. In the video, Feuerstein mocks Starbucks, “Guess what? Just to offend you I made sure to wear my Jesus Christ shirt into your store, and since you hate the second amendment I even carried my gun.”
Some people who identified as Christian were very offended, resulting in a multi-faceted, viral, right-wing-fuelled spree of anger towards the company, entitled Starbucks’ War on Christmas. Picture literally thousands of people, livid over the Christmas cups. In their minds Starbucks had declared war on Christmas, and the, “godless company” had to be stopped…for good. The controversy gained so much momentum that it was picked up by CBS, The Ellen Show, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and GQ Magazine.
The Twitter hashtag #boycottstarbucks started to trend. Users accused the macchiato merchant of being a true tyrant, worshipped by many an active caffeine addict thirsty to fulfill their devilish morning routines.
In 2016, Starbucks decided to try to play it a little safer. Put it in the public’s hands, they said. The company crowd-sourced 13 holiday designs from customers across North America for their Christmas cups in the hopes of putting the controversy in the past. And yet, somehow, some way, people were still upset—they did not like the draft picks.
2017 has also seen a dramatic shift in Christmas design with illustrations of doves, a Christmas tree, two people holding hands, a present, and to top it all off two Starbucks cups with red string coming out of them to symbolize ornaments. The artistic direction is love-based, open concept, featured only green, red, and white. What could go wrong, right?
"This year's cup is intentionally designed to encourage our customers to add their own colour and illustrations,” said Starbucks executive creative director, Leanne Fremar, in an online statement. "We love the idea of everyone making this year's cup their own." That is, if you have the time to colour code your coffee cup at work before your boss gives you a hard time.
But again, they failed in their neutrality. This time, their problem was that they were a little too open—or at least to North America’s more “traditional” coffee drinkers. A lot of people hate being politically correct.
Right-wing supporters have turned to filing public complaints about the advertisement and to Starbucks’ Twitter account to air their grievances, those of which were probably taken very seriously by the company.
Moving forward it will be interesting to see how Starbucks angers the public next. In the meantime, the official advertisement for the new Christmas cups shows a range of ages, races, and displays two women about to kiss, leaning in towards each other as fireworks go off behind them. The cup itself is plain white, intended for customer’s illustrations, comes in short, tall, grande, and venti sizes. They will be sold until Boxing day. Treat yourself #coffeecupsmatter