Sorry, But There Are Bigger Issues than Coffee Cups

You know, like that little thing called climate change?

Katherine Singh
Starbucks's Christmas cups
(Photo: Starbucks)

Another holiday season is upon us and that means the introduction of everyone’s favourite yuletide tradition: Starbucks’s infamous holiday drinks. With the first snowfall, everyone offish says “buh bye” to their (TBQH, disgusting) PSL and says “hell-ho-ho-ho” to any and everything candy cane.

Along with the festive beverages, Starbucks released the new limited edition holiday-themed cups. They’re pretty frickin’ cute this year, you guys. But, as with pretty much anything that happens in this world, the haters are out in full force against said cups. To be precise, they’re incensed by the fact that the 2019 Starbucks holiday cups don’t *specifically* say “Merry Christmas.”

As soon as the four new holiday designs were released into the world on November 7, Christmas purists came out of the woodwork to decry this supposed offence, especially the use of “Merry Coffee” instead of “Christmas,” which is what’s emblazoned on the cups. “The silliest slogan I have ever heard,” one social media user wrote. “Multi-billion dollar corporation and they came up with Merry Coffee. Wow,” wrote another.

This isn’t the first time the coffee giant has been in hot water (get it?) over holiday cups that don’t declare Christmas. Since 2015, when the company released their first red cup, they’ve been criticized by conservatives, with some claiming that the cups are an attack on Christian values. TBH, the backlash has become as much of a holiday tradition as the cups themselves. And in the first year of non-Christmas cups, some upset patrons decided to rebel, opting to “prank” Starbucks by telling baristas their names were “Merry Christmas” so that they’d have to write it on their cup and call it out when the drink was ready. (Slick!)

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It’s a holiday tragedy, everyone.

But four years into this trend of Starbucks holiday cup outrage, we just have to laugh. Because, is *this* the issue we’re choosing to get really riled up about? There are bigger problems than whether or not your coffee cup says “Merry Christmas” on it, no?

First of all, not everyone celebrates Christmas

One of the biggest, most glaring problems with the backlash to the Starbucks cups is the fact that people are so caught up feeling that their supposed values are being attacked that they’re failing to realize that having “Merry Christmas” plastered on a cup could feel like an attack to someone else. They’re simply not taking into account the fact that not everyone celebrates Christmas and, sorry to break it to ya, folks, but that’s the truth. A 2018 study by Pew Research Center found that, like the United States and Europe, a steadily declining number of Canadian adults identify as Christian, with only 55% saying they do.

For many Canadians who don’t fit in to that number, the holiday season can mean many things: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule or just a lot of cold temps and snow.

Which is exactly what Starbs is taking into account with their cups—the fact that everyone has a different experience with the holidays. And just because good ‘ol Mary and Joseph have been the norm for the majority of Canada’s history and the Christian calendar still informs most of our holidays, it doesn’t mean that it’s the only religion people actually practice. So why should those who don’t celebrate or believe in Christmas be forced to sip from a holiday cup that embraces it?

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Would love to see how in their feelings these same critics would be if the tables were turned and, heaven forbid, Starbucks released only a line of Kwanzaa cups. I’m pretty sure they’d be wholeheartedly embracing “Merry Coffee.”

There are bigger issues at hand

Also, can’t believe I have to say this, but there are bigger fish to fry. While people are getting worked up over the slogan on their gingerbread latte cup, our earth is heating up at rapid pace (seriously, the effects of climate change could be irreversible by 2030), more than 1 million species are at risk of extinction, hate crimes and racism in Canada have been steadily increasing, millennials’ physical and mental health is declining at a faster rate than previous generations and income inequality is still a growing issue. So, super fun stuff.

If we’re going to criticize Starbs, let’s do it for issues that are actually, well, issues. Because the company (like many) does have *a lot* of  problematic practices it needs to answer for. Like the coffee giant’s recently publicized problem with racial bias within the company. In April 2018, two Black men were arrested while sitting in a Pittsburgh Starbucks for not ordering anything. The men say they were waiting for a third person to show up for a business meeting and while they were released shortly after their arrest, many believed the incident was a very visible example of racial profiling. The incident prompted the company to close thousands of stores across the U.S. and Canada for “anti-bias” training. The training sessions were only four hours.

In February, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told a CNN town hall: “As somebody who grew up in a very diverse background as a young boy in the projects I didn’t see colour as a young boy and I honestly don’t see colour now.” Which, no one is buying, sir.

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But our outrage is pretty emblematic of our values

TBH, we shouldn’t be surprised that with all the garbage fires raging in our world, the design of a mass-produced coffee cup is the issue that people are choosing to throw their anger behind. Because whether it’s getting heated over the phrase “Ok, Boomer” or getting pissed off over a recyclable coffee cup’s impact on the sanctity of Christmas, as a society in general we hate being called out, we hate any implication that our way isn’t the only way and we hate anything that seems out of the “norm” or different. We’re also self-serving as hell.

And in some ways, you can’t blame people. The world is seriously a garbage fire right now. Things like income inequality and climate change seem insurmountable, so why not focus on something that feels changeable? Except for the fact that this is a stupid cause rooted in a fear of otherness and predicated on the maintenance of the mainstream.

So, Merry Coffee, everyone!

…and seriously, STFU.

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