Dear Starbucks: You may have noticed the tremendous “buzz” all across the Internet and social media regarding your controversial holiday cup. Having previously adorned your cups with polar bears and snowflakes, this year’s choice of a simplistic red design threw some particularly religious people into a bit of a tizzy. Many Christians got their tinsel in a knot and vehemently proclaimed that you, Starbucks, had joined the “War on Christmas.” Since “cup-gate”, I have read countless articles and blogs on the subject of your company. Perspectives range from angry religious leaders, to famous business analysts, and even Presidential candidates like Donald Trump. That being said, I’ll admit it’s perfectly acceptable for people to have opinions about almost anything. What I don’t understand is why the media continuously makes “blanket” assumptions about how specific groups, in this case Christians, feel about certain hot button issues.
You don’t have to be a super genius to know that your cups have never been “religious.” I want you to know Starbucks, that as a Christian tea drinker, I can say with no uncertainty I was not offended by your holiday cup design. In fact, I’d like to personally thank you for this red cup controversy… and here’s why.
Amidst all the talk of “religious persecution” brought about by an unadorned paper cup, you got me thinking Starbucks, about something that I haven’t considered in a really long time… What do I associate with Christmas? I know it’s more than polar bears, snowflakes, and no offense, your coffee.
When I got older and moved to New York, the things I associated with Christmas began to change. Christmas became standing under the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, marveling at nature, and realizing how small I really was. Christmas was seeing the Rockettes and wishing I had legs like that! It was Wollman Rink and carriage rides through Central Park on velvet seats. Christmas was rosy cheeks and cold noses, holding gloved hands and looking at window displays in Macy’s.
Now, as a mother, Christmas has again taken on new meaning. It’s seeing the build up of excitement in my daughters as they count down to December 25th. It’s the combination of surprise, and in the case of my one year old, the anxiety, of meeting Santa at the mall. Christmas is trimming the tree as a family and having that yearly argument with my husband over whether to use a star or bow as a topper. It’s licking and labeling countless envelopes filled with holiday cards so everyone can see how big and beautiful my daughters have grown over the past year. Christmas is hiding in my freezing basement while my family sleeps to secretly wrap gifts in coordinating holiday paper. Christmas is gingerbread houses and softening countless sticks of butter for all the cookies I’ll most likely burn. It’s sprinkling reindeer food on the front lawn and leaving milk for Santa. Christmas is assuming the roles my parents once occupied, acting surprised on that special morning, and realizing getting the chance to play Santa is better than any gift I could ever receive.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, as a Christian, Christmas is midnight mass. It’s that feeling you get when you walk into church on a chilly Christmas Eve and the heat from the glowing candles instantly warms you. Christmas is seeing your church packed to capacity, standing room only, because people who may not normally come to mass want to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Christmas is the story of a girl and her husband, of animals and kings, of a star and an angel. It’s the story of birth, and when the statue of the baby Jesus is placed in the nativity’s manager, Christmas is hope. Christmas, quite simply, is Christ.
In our family we have a tradition of selecting a new holiday ornament each year that symbolizes something meaningful to our family. Well Starbucks, in honor of your cup faux pas, we have chosen your 2015 red cup ornament to place on our tree. Some people won’t get the choice and maybe some of them will think I’m being a smart ass, but I don’t care.
“Perhaps, Christmas, she thought, isn’t a cup from a store.”
“Perhaps, Christmas means just a little bit more.”
Thank you Starbucks, for choosing that plain ol’ red cup this year. Thanks for flooding my mind with memories and ghosts of Christmas’ past. Thanks for putting Christmas into perspective for someone who has a habit of getting caught up in the holiday madness. My sincerest apologies for all the Scrooges who may have rained on your coffee’s promotional holiday parade. I’m certain; Santa will put them on the naughty list. As for my Christian family, I wish you “Merry Christmas.” I mean, “Happy Holidays.”
Pictured: Holly drinking from a Starbucks “red” cup mug.