History of Starbucks Holiday Cups

November 27, 2018


Starbucks opted for a red ombre cup in lieu of their traditionally Christmas-themed cups, sparking outrage from Christmas lovers across the nation. Starbucks released a statement explaining the plain graphic was meant to “usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories” and promote inclusivity of people from all religious and ethnic backgrounds.

Joshua Feuerstein, evangelist and social media influencer, started an online movement titled #MerryChristmasStarbucks with a Facebook rant that went viral. “In the age of political correctness, we become so open-minded, our brains have literally fallen out of our heads!” Feuerstein urged his viewers to push back against Starbucks’ secularization, although it is worth noting that Starbucks was still and continues to produce a drink labeled ‘Christmas blend.’ Feuerstein boasted, “I went inside, they asked for my name, and I said my name is Merry Christmas. So guess what, Starbucks? I tricked you!” He urged his followers to follow in his footsteps and upload photos to the hashtag #MerryChristmasStarbucks. “Choose to not be politically correct, just correct.”

Even Donald Trump while on the campaign trail brought up his concerns over the controversy. He suggested, “Maybe we should boycott Starbucks.” The attendants at his rally booed as he told them there was “No more Merry Christmas” at Starbucks. The booing quickly turned into clapping and cheering as Trump promised, “If I become president, we’re all gonna be saying Merry Christmas again– that, I can tell you.” Evidently, the desecularization of Starbucks’ branding was not an outcome of his presidency.


After backlash over the red cup, Starbucks switched it out in 2016 for a green cup depicting what their marketing team described as “a mosaic of more than a hundred people, drawn in one continuous stroke,” serving as “a symbol of unity” between all caffeine consumers. Many customers were still upset over the cup’s secular design, and continued to complain, boycott, and organize ‘movements’ against Starbucks.

The pushback caused Starbucks to release a statement clarifying that the green cups released on the date the company normally used for releasing their holiday branding were not, in fact, the holiday cups, and that the real cups would be coming shortly. Sure enough, within a few weeks, Starbucks released new holiday cups, this time with a delicate white holly design over a deep red background.


Starbucks returned to a holiday theme with a cup showing a Christmas tree, wrapped presents, snowflakes, and a pair of holding hands. Christmas fanatics were once again satisfied. That is, until a Buzzfeed article referred to the ambiguously gendered hands as “totally gay,” upsetting conservative patrons who felt that the coffee company was pushing a gay agenda. The article quoted one of the workers in the Buzzfeed newsroom, “I can attest to the lesbianism of the hands.” The company never confirmed the hands to be same-sex or otherwise, but it caused a stir nonetheless.


This year, Starbucks is taking a safer approach by releasing a line of cups that are patterned in a manner that vaguely suggests Christmas. One cup shows a green quilted pattern with shining stars, another wears a red and white houndstooth marble. A third cup is adorned with graphics of holly berries, and yet another is striped like a candy cane. So far, there has been no form of backlash or outrage with these cups– but it could only be a matter of time.


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