The Starbucks Red Cup Controversy

By Alinah Charania

The holidays are finally upon us and as it is a time known for its joy and happiness, how could we — wholehearted members of society — not declare a full-fledged war on the season?  Through the online forum, our neighbours south of the border have managed to successfully start another fuss over an age-old sensitive topic: religion.  However, this time it has all come down to a simple paper cup.


On November 3rd, the well-known coffee franchise Starbucks released their holiday coffee cup; a tradition they have had since 1997.  Unlike previous years, though, this year’s cup lacked the usual wintry design.  Starbucks decided to go with a simplistic crimson ombré design that most would find to be inclusive of all cultures; however, this is not how self-proclaimed “American evangelist, internet, and social media personality” Joshua Feuerstein sees it.

In a one minute and twenty second video posted on November 5th, Feuerstein stands outside a Starbucks Coffee shop, ranting about the cup.  He claims that “Starbucks wanted to take Christ and Christmas off of their brand new cups.  That’s why they’re just plain red.”  Feuerstein later goes on to say that Starbucks employees are not allowed to say ‘Merry Christmas’ to their customers.  However, this is, in fact, untrue.  He then continues, saying that he wants to start a movement by getting fellow Christians to follow his example doing things like wearing a shirt with an image of Jesus on it into the popular coffee shop and telling the employees that his name is ‘Merry Christmas’ so that they have to write it on his cup.  Feuerstein even adds a hashtag to his movement that has since gone viral: #MerryChristmasStarbucks. To top it all off, Feuerstein suggests going against the fact that Starbucks is outspoken against The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution by carrying his gun into the shop.

The video posted on Feuerstein’s Facebook account has so far accumulated over 16 million views.  It has caused much dispute, with comments on the video ranging from support for Feuerstein and his opinion to full blown disapproval.  Some people are also commenting on the fact that the Starbucks holiday cups in the past have never been Christmas-themed and their cup designs have only been of wintry things such as snowmen, pine trees, and sledding rather than something directly related to Christmas.  

Many popular figures have also been commenting on it.  Many are also having fun with the subject and cracking jokes about it.  On her daytime talk show, Ellen Degeneres presented her “Starbucks Holiday Vision Glasses”: a pair of sunglasses with snowflake and Santa hat stickers on the lenses so that the wearer can see everything, especially their Starbucks cup, in a Christmas-themed way.  Stephen Colbert also poked fun at the subject by pointing out all the other Christmas-themed products at Starbucks such as cookies, CDs, and travel mugs.  American presidential candidate Donald Trump also commented on it, saying, “Maybe we should boycott Starbucks? I don’t know.  Seriously, I don’t care.  If I become president, we’re all going to be saying Merry Christmas again, that I can tell you.”  Following all the controversy, Starbucks has released a statement saying, “Starbucks is inviting customers to create their own stories with a red cup that mimics a blank canvas.”

With more pressing issues currently affecting humanity, one can only hope that the wise minority in our society will prevail.