Starbucks shuts down criticism of its holiday cup design

Well, looks like I goofed. In a previous post I called the Starbucks cup design the holiday re-design and apparently it was not. That design was more election-related, though most of what I wrote about Starbucks being in the center of controversy stands.

Grubstreet recently reported on the real Starbucks holiday cup design, and while “critic-proof” is by no means an absolute, it is interesting how they arrived at the 2016 holiday season designs.

Those who wanted to saw the gradient/ombre cups of 2015 as a “war on Christmas.” They even discarded the reality that most of the symbols people associate with Christmas were appropriated from earlier pagan festivals such as Saturnalia to arrive at this conclusion. I think I’ve said plenty about the alleged “war on Christmas” already but I think some of it bears repeating. There are many different observances between the American Thanksgiving and the beginning of the new year: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Grav-mass/Newtonmas, Yule, Yalda, Boxing Day, Dongzhi Festival, Quaid-e-Azam’s Day, Chalica, Soyal, Pancha Ganapati, Festivus… just to name a few.

Anyway, before I go too far off on that tangent, Starbucks took 13 of the best designs drawn on the 2015 cups, and used them as designs for the 2016 cups. The 2016 cups don’t appear to have the actual ombre/gradient background from 2015, though (I happen to be at a Starbucks as I write this so I can glance over and look). Even more interesting, Starbucks has made a winter design for the clear plastic cups used for cold drinks, since those still get ordered down south in cities like Houston (and not just the weirdo geek writing this that orders iced tea at Starbucks 10½ to 11 months out of the year).

The assertion of “critic-proof” has yet to be proven. But to those who are going to call a “war on Christmas” based on not including things like snowflakes, trees, or other symbols of wintertime: make a note of where they come from. Even Santa Claus has his origins in Yule, not Christmas.

Maybe it’s time I call a “war on Yule and Saturnalia” given that so much of what we now call “Christmas” decorations have been appropriated from those two holidays.

Why I say “Happy Holidays”

While some may find this post offensive, my goals in writing this post did not include a deliberate attempt to offend. I wrote this post to establish my point of view, and also to enlighten those who may never have heard the truth about the history of the modern “Christmas” holiday.

With the coming of the winter holiday season, there’s been what seems like more than the usual controversy and flaming over the use of “Happy Holidays,” “Seasons Greetings,” and for that matter any holiday greeting besides “Merry Christmas” even though there are other cultures which celebrate other holidays. Maybe it just seems that way because of the fact Hanukkah and US-observed Thanksgiving happened to be the same day this year, which last happened in 1888 and won’t happen again until 2070 and 2165.

I usually say “Happy Holidays” and I do so to include everyone, whether they observe Yule, Litha, Christmas, Kwanzaa, HanukkahZarathosht Diso, Grav-Mass, Saturnalia, or something else entirely. To many non-Christians, “Merry Christmas” has about as much meaning as “Happy Yule” or “Io Saturnalia” does to Christians. Seriously, try wishing someone “Happy Yule” or “Io Saturnalia” and see how they react.

Perhaps the biggest surprise to everyone is that most so-called Christmas traditions actually trace their roots to other pagan or secular celebrations such as Saturnalia. Exchanging gifts was originally done as part of Saturnalia on December 23. There was also the Feast of Fools, the medieval successor to Saturnalia, celebrated at about the same time of year. The tradition of singing carols actually stems from Yule (which more or less coincides with Christmas at least in the Northern Hemisphere), a still-observed pagan winter holiday of gift-giving.

And finally it seems particularly odd to me, speaking as a non-Christian, that Christians would celebrate Jesus Christ’s birthday on a day in the middle of winter when Jesus was more likely born in the spring. The most plausible reason is that the pagan and secular winter festivals occurring on or about December 25 were much more popular and thus more inviting targets to usurp. Of course, this didn’t stop the Christians from usurping Eostar in the spring and calling it Easter. But I’ll save that commentary for the appropriate season.

While the takeover of traditionally secular or pagan holidays by Christians is understandable, it makes the assertion that there is a “war on Christmas” that much more offensive to me. To me, it looks more like the real war has been fought by Christians for centuries on holidays observed by those of other faiths, changing the name and even being creative with history in the name of spreading the gospel. It’s an understandable tactic, but calling a horse’s tail a leg does not make it one, and so it is with the winter holidays.

Happy holidays, everyone. I have a few more recent events to weigh in on before the new year is upon us.

Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and holiday shopping

I’m not going to cite a specific news article for this post, because the news on this one is rather widespread and should easily be found. There has been a huge controversy over the past couple of weeks about retailers starting their Black Friday sales as early as 8pm Thanksgiving Day, effectively cutting into their employees’ Thanksgiving dinner time and complicating any travel plans they may have had to visit family in other cities.

This wouldn’t be so bad except for one thing. I, personally, have noticed a trend in recent years for seasonal merchandise to be out earlier and earlier. The Halloween season starts not all that long after Labor Day in September, and the Christmas/Yule merchandise is already out the first week of November. I’m all for marketing, in general, but it’s no secret that retailers profit handily during the Christmas/Yule shopping season and the greed inherent in promoting the season a whole two months in advance is quite palpable.

It comes down to basic economics. The retailers will not start Black “Friday” sales as far back as Thursday evening, or even Friday at midnight, if the demand isn’t there. It only takes one time for a retailer’s management to get burned by unnecessary labor costs on top of the headache of finding employees willing to blow off their Thanksgiving dinner to work (which, even in retail, is not quite as easy as it sounds), to realize they made a mistake. Hitting a retailer’s bottom line will make a much more profound and meaningful statement than a petition ever will. On the other hand, as long as there are enough people attending the early Black “Friday” sales the evening of Thanksgiving Day, they’ll be here to stay. Again, it’s all about supply and demand.