Starbucks Red Cups: Shots Fired In The ‘War On Christmas?’

Starbucks is facing accusations that it fired some of the first (espresso) shots in the so-called “War on Christmas.” But was the coffee chain’s switch to plain, blood-red cups really an anti-Christian move? Or is Starbucks being wrongfully accused of being a Scrooge?

According to TIME, some concerned Christians are complaining about Starbucks’ holiday cup design for 2015 because the company didn’t make its containers festive enough. This year’s holiday cups are a bright shade of red, and this is the only hint of Christmas to be found on the cylinder-shaped pieces of cardboard — there are no snowmen, stockings, Santas, or sugarplums. Because the little red cups aren’t covered with Christmas wrapping or other holiday trappings, they inspired a very Grinch-like reaction from evangelist Joshua Feuerstein.

“Starbucks REMOVED CHRISTMAS from their cups because they hate Jesus,” Feuerstein wrote in a Facebook post that has gone viral. To force Starbucks employees to make the red cups more festive, he’s advising Starbucks customers to give baristas the name “Merry Christmas” whenever they place their orders. His idea was so popular that he managed to get the hashtag #MerryChristmasStarbucks trending on Facebook.

Starbucks started taking a more minimalist approach with its red cup artwork last year. The 2014 red holiday cups featured barely-visible starbursts and trees painted in sweeping brush strokes. This year’s design has completely eliminated the inclusion of any holiday imagery, but the red cups aren’t as plain as they first appear to be in photos. According to a Starbucks press release, the cups feature “a two-toned ombré design, with a bright poppy color on top that shades into a darker cranberry below.”

Starbucks 2014 Red Cup Design
Last year's red cup was also pretty basic (Image via Starbucks Facebook)

Jeffrey Fields, Starbucks’ vice president of design and content, explained that he wants the cups to inspire customers to create their own holiday stories.

“In the past, we have told stories with our holiday cups designs,” Fields said in a press release. “This year we wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories.”

“Starbucks has become a place of sanctuary during the holidays… We’re embracing the simplicity and the quietness of it. It’s more open way to usher in the holiday.”

As Snopes points out, it’s a bit silly to accuse Starbucks of suddenly hating Jesus and engaging in the supposed War on Christmas — the company’s red cups have never featured religious imagery like nativity scenes, angels, and crosses. Instead, Starbucks has always decorated its cups with secular winter symbols like reindeer and snowmen. According to Popsugar, the 2013 design included poinsettias and coffee flowers, and one of the 2012 designs was a winking snowman. In 2011, Starbucks patrons got to look at a cute picture of a boy sledding with his dog while they sipped on their festive peppermint mochas.

Starbucks Red Cups
Starbucks' 2013 red cup (Image via Starbucks Facebook)

Snopes points out that it’s pretty obvious that Starbucks doesn’t have anything against Christmas or the Christians who celebrate the holiday — the company still sells its seasonal Christmas Blend, and coffee lovers can even purchase advent calendars from the Starbucks store. There’s also a special section on the Starbucks website for “Ornaments & Stocking Stuffers.”

Starbucks Selling Advent Calendar
A Starbucks Advent Calendar is for sale on the company's website (Image via Starbucks Store)

While some people aren’t fans of Starbucks’ 2015 red cups, the company loves its basic design so much that it has created a special emoji for the containers. The red cup emoji appears whenever a Twitter user tweets the hashtag #RedCup or RedCups. Maybe Starbucks really opted for a simple holiday cup design because it was easier to recreate in emoji form.

Luckily for the coffee company, some fans aren’t buying the War on Christmas allegations — many social media users have blasted the War on Starbucks’ Red Cups by poking fun at all the outrage.

Starbucks can’t be too upset about the “Merry Christmas” name campaign — after all, customers who take part in it are still coming in to pay for those plain red cups.

[Image via Starbucks Facebook]