Photo: CC, Rudolf Schuba Edits: Kim Wiens
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Recently Starbucks has faced criticism for dropping designs from their annual Christmas cups and opting instead for a plain red and green cup. One of the most vocal critics of the new design was Donald Trump, who suggested that a boycott of Starbucks might be in order. What everyone seems to be forgetting, Trump included, is that it’s just a disposable coffee cup.

This change in design upset some Christians, who pointed to it as further evidence of the long running societal “War on Christmas”. The important thing to note however is that Starbucks cups have never had Christian symbols on them, not even for their Christmas cups.

Previous seasonal cup designs have had snowflakes, snowmen, and people tobogganing on them.  While these symbols are connected to the same time of year that Christmas occurs, they aren’t ‘Christian’ symbols, so it isn’t like Starbucks is parting with a long-running tradition of Christmas bible verses on their cups.

The controversy over the plain red cups prompted two social media campaigns. One, called #MerryChristmasStarbucks, was for people to vent their frustrations over not being able to look at snowflakes while drinking their coffee. The other campaign #itsjustacup, was a reminder to people that there are more important issues to be giving our attention to than a simple cup. 

Another fact used to support this theory of a “War on Christmas” is the stores and other locations that say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. Holidays are not a zero-sum game, and a society can celebrate all of them if they wish. Saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” is just a recognition of the fact there are other holidays that are being celebrated during that time, not a condemnation or insult of whichever holiday you’re celebrating.

The fact is that there is no “War on Christmas”. Christian holidays are more institutionalized than any other and sales around the holidays were over $3-billion and represented almost 20 per cent of total retail earnings for the U.S. in 2013, according to Statista.

Students get time off around events like Christmas and many employers close their shops because they know they won’t have any business during those days. Even Starbucks still has a full menu of holiday-themed drinks like gingerbread lattes and peppermint mochas.

There is very little point to getting angry over the design of Starbucks cups—the company isn’t going to change it.  It sounds like a cliché but there truly are bigger issues to worry about than the design of simple disposable cups. In any case, it seems that the new Starbucks design and the resulting outcry is saying a lot more about current society than the company itself.