Some Christians Upset About the Starbucks Christmas Cup

©Hattanas Kumchai/123RF

Christians are ready to boycott over, of all things, this year’s Starbucks Christmas cup, the paper cup the company is using to serve its coffee during the holiday season.

Let me be as delicate as I can: If you’re a Christian fuming over the design of Starbucks to the point that you’re calling for a boycott, I think you should definitely give up the coffee: clearly you are ingesting too much caffeine and it might just be clouding your judgment.

I kept seeing a meme in my Facebook feed over the past couple of days referring to the annual red Starbucks cup. I saw it just enough times to make me curious about what was going on. Finding out the story behind the controversy honestly made me wish I had just left it alone.

It turns out, for those of you who haven’t seen the flap, yet, or for those who have but remained (at least until you read this post) blissfully unaware, let me explain: Starbucks decided to redo its red coffee cup for the holiday season.

This is not new.

The company offers a different design every year. It’s never the “same ol’ cup.”

Last year, according to a photo posted on Fox News, featured the red cup with silhouettes of darker red images like snowflakes and an undecorated fir tree (that looks like a Christmas tree but isn’t necessarily).

This year, it’s just a solid red cup with no images other than the Starbucks logo which is there every year.

According to a quick Google image search, the 2013 design featured round Christmas ornaments surrounded by abstract snowflakes. In 2012, the images included a white bird (perhaps a dove, but it’s just abstract enough that there’s no way to know) looking at a Christmas ornament hanging from a branch, an apparent caroler, and a snowman. In 2011, images included a snowman, a caroler, an ice skater, a squirrel standing beneath an acorn perched on a tree branch and a toy soldier a la The Nutcracker.

I never saw a design that featured the baby Jesus (or the adult one, for that matter) or the words “Merry Christmas.” I did, incidentally, find through a Google image search shots of Starbucks gift cards that read, “Merry Christmas.”

I’m not sure why these same people didn’t go ape over last year’s design, since the only thing particularly “Christmasy” was that collection of brushstrokes that sort of resembled a fir tree. But even then, the Christmas ornaments from the year before were, as far as I can tell, nowhere to be found.

Is this really worth getting worked up about?

How long do you have one of Starbucks’ cups in your hot little hands? Maybe a couple of hours if you’re the type who likes to nurse a cup of coffee for a while or perhaps refill it with your own brew after you’ve finished theirs.

Otherwise, within an hour or so, I’d imagine, you’ve already tossed the cup in the garbage. That, at least, is how I’m confident it works from January to October. Perhaps, for the last two months of the year, the cups become precious collectors items customers run through the dishwasher then load into their cabinets to serve alongside their fine china at their Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner celebrations.

I’ve read that some of the “angry” Christians who are just angry enough to take action, but apparently aren’t angry enough to give up their java fix, plan to visit their local Starbucks and give their name as “Merry Christmas,” hoping the store employees will shout that phrase as a way to “force” them to say what isn’t being said (and what apparently wasn’t said before, anyway). I hope one of two things happen to customers who take this absurd action: either the employee outsmarts them by simply calling out, “Mary,” or, if they do call out “Merry Christmas,” everyone else in the store points and laughs at the person who’s gone overboard in the category of much ado about nothing.

Just because a national company simplifies a paper coffee cup design, that doesn’t mean that the employees at the local store who’ll have to tolerate angry Christians’ over-the-top outrage don’t celebrate Christmas themselves.

It’s a paper cup, people.

From this kind of reaction, the bigger message being sent to young people — an age group leaving the church at alarming levels — isn’t that Christians are “bold enough” to take a stand for something they hold as important; it’s that Christians are so petty that they’ll argue and protest over something that in the grand scheme of things means absolutely nothing.

Combining even a plain red with all of the green in the Starbucks logo gives you the traditional color combination for Christmas that’s been around since about forever.

If that’s not good enough for you, then by all means go get your coffee somewhere else. But as you enjoy it, I’d invite you to take a much closer look at the world around us. There are certainly more important causes Christians could be working together to address: Does everyone in your neighborhood know Jesus Christ as their personal savior? Has poverty been eradicated where you live? Does everyone have health care? Are children being taken care of where you live? Is anyone in your hometown going to bed hungry tonight?

Those are just a few questions you might consider asking yourself before you get your feathers ruffled over a paper cup that’ll be destined for a landfill the same day you purchase its contents.


  1. I wonder why this is so large a source of headaches…what kind of life does a person have when there is a need to invent a problem?
    I may have not said “merry Christmas” when I did Human Resources, and I still don’t – we are talking YEARS of not doing it – old habits die hard. But I never insisted that the rest of the staff MUST be like that! Why would I? Even so, I had the odd employee come up to me and demand to know why I didn’t say “merry Christmas”. So I looked them in the eyes and deadpanned, “I don’t believe in God.”
    Now, before you can gasp out that I’m sacrilegious, don’t. I’m not. I don’t, strictly speaking, believe in the same god as Catholics, Christians, Jewish, Muslim, and so many others do. I’m a Wiccan – I believe in the energy of the universe. That all energy is only borrowed and some day we have to give it back. I’m not a religious person in the typical sense. So, no, why would I necessarily utter words that don’t truly apply to me? It would be…like my going into a full on Catholic Mass at a wedding and doing the bread and wine thing – I’m not baptised, it isn’t for me to do – isn’t that correct?
    I will go right on saying, “Happy holidays.” Personally, my whole life is by no means tied in to be”politically correct”, but being fair to all. I’m generally the last person in the world to be considered politically correct, but you see what I mean.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.