A simple red coffee cup

Sometimes the more inclusive you are, the worse the result. Such is the case for Starbucks this holiday season, it appears.

Buzzfeed recently reported on the backlash Starbucks has experienced for its 2015 holiday cups. In years past (from 1997 on according to the company), Starbucks has placed various winter-themed art such as snowmen, snowflakes, a boy and his dog riding a sled down a snow-packed hill, and art suggestive of a decorated tree. This year, Starbucks went with what I describe as a simple bright red/crimson gradient; if you prefer the official line, this blog entry on the Starbucks corporate blog calls it “…a two-toned ombré design, with a bright poppy color on top that shades into a darker cranberry below”.

Later in that same blog post/media release, Starbucks states:

“Starbucks has become a place of sanctuary during the holidays,” he said. “We’re embracing the simplicity and the quietness of it. It’s more open way to usher in the holiday.”

Creating a culture of belonging, inclusion and diversity is one of the core values of Starbucks, and each year during the holidays the company aims to bring customers an experience that inspires the spirit of the season. Starbucks will continue to embrace and welcome customers from all backgrounds and religions in our stores around the world.

If only that were enough to appease some zealots looking for something to call a “war on Christmas.” That’s what this simplistic redesign has been called, believe it or not. Even though the designs Starbucks used in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014 had purely winter-themed art, with only the designs in 2009 and 2013 showing parts of decorated trees which some use to celebrate other winter holidays besides Christmas. (See for yourself in this Time article.)

It’s absurd that this is being called a “war on Christmas.” It’s anything but. It’s Starbucks trying to be more inclusive, and trying something different this year. Again, that quote from Antoine de Saint Exupéry comes to mind: “It seems that perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.” Maybe it is an attempt by Starbucks to make the perfect holiday coffee cup. Whether they have succeeded, of course, remains to be seen.

This will certainly not affect the patronage I give to Starbucks, as I support their decision to select coffee cup art they feel appropriate. In fact, I completely support the effort by Starbucks to be as inclusive as possible. This is, unfortunately, a great example of “no good deed goes unpunished.” Starbucks tries to include everyone, and all hell breaks loose by those who still feel left out. (As an example, those of us who have lived in Texas our entire lives barely know what snow is, yet I don’t think anyone complained to Starbucks that they put snowmen on coffee cups.)

I haven’t heard of the Jewish population raising a stink about a “war on Hanukkah” in the entire time I’ve been alive. Nor have the neo-pagans said anything about a “war on Yule.” Same for the other winter holidays which are lesser-known but still exist in some cultures. Yet for the past few years there’s been some kind of “war on Christmas” every year, if you believe those who call it that. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out who the true warmongers are given the above.

To the zealots who have so much free time to spend looking for a “war on Christmas”: How about spending your time on something useful instead? How about waking up and realizing that it is not a “war on Christmas” just because a company opts for simplicity and inclusiveness? It’s a damn coffee cup. Get over it. Sheesh.

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