Starbucks, Frankincense and Myrrh – Why We Should Stop Thinking About Cups And Start Thinking About Each Other
Jesus and disposable cardboard coffee cups. These two things have been inextricably linked since time immemorial. If you define “since time immemorial” as “since 1997”. Rather than using the legal definition of “since the 6th of July 1189”.
At the beginning of time immemorial (1997, not 1189), Starbucks started using red coffee cups to mark the start of the holiday season. Actually, they’re more sort of waxed paper beaker, but everyone calls them cups.
Nothing controversial there. Lots of companies use seasonal motifs. Seasonal carrier bags, seasonal complimentary chocolates and that kind of thing. As is traditional.
This year though, Starbucks have broken with their own tradition and their Red Cup is just that. A red cup with no other adornment than the Starbucks logo. This has made a lot of people quite angry. In fact, it’s made one person in particular very angry indeed.
His name is Joshua Feuerstein, and it made him so angry that he walked into Starbucks carrying a gun in order to make his point. You’re allowed to do that where he lives, apparently. Here is the incident explained in his own words:
I’m assuming that he didn’t point the gun in the barista’s face or anything. I’m assuming that the gun was holstered. On that assumption, I’m concluding that whoever served him was not “tricked” by him but was just humouring him. Baristas have a hard enough time living on their subsistence wages and therefore have a tendency to keep any other crap in their working lives to a bare minimum if they can help it.
Mr Feuerstein’s point appears to be that Starbucks have removed the word “Christmas” from their red cups. They haven’t. Starbucks Red Cups have never had the word “Christmas” written on them. They’ve had pictures of snowflakes on them and carol singers and snowmen and suchlike. But not the word “Christmas”.
Even if they had, the fact that Starbucks sell Advent Calendars and special Christmas blend coffee seems to have passed Mr Feuerstein by. The fact that a Starbucks seasonal gift card looks like this seems to have gone entirely over his head:
I’m not normally in the habit of targeting the hard of understanding, but I can’t say that I am completely shocked. I’ve seen this man’s views on evolution via YouTube. He definitely doesn’t understand the Second Law of Thermodynamics, that’s for sure. He ignores the “in a closed system” part of the law. Which might explain why he ignored the “as part of a well regulated militia” part of the Second Amendment when he walked into his local coffee shop sporting a handgun.
Still, Mr Feuerstein is entitled to his opinions and he is certainly not alone in them. Many people share his views on the “Plain Red Cup” debacle. This is the point at which my own understanding starts to fail me. Even if you ignore all of the other Starbucks merchandise that has “Merry Christmas” plastered all over it and concentrate solely on the Plain Red Cup. Even if you do that, how does the absence of a thing on another thing prove its owners dislike of that thing? The first thing that is, not the second thing.
Sure, the Plain Red Cup doesn’t have the word “Christmas” on it. There’s lots of things it doesn’t have on it. It doesn’t have any dolphins on it. Does that mean that Starbucks are anti-dolphin? It doesn’t have a picture of a Jacquard Loom on it either. Does that mean that Starbucks has deeply repressed Luddite feelings about the introduction of punched card technology in the early 19th Century? Of course it fucking doesn’t.
In fact, Starbucks Plain Red Cup proves only two things:
Starbucks have hired someone with a less kitsch sense of style to design their cups this year.
Starbucks are really into Melusines (the correct term for two-tailed mermaids, in case you were unaware.)
Actually, the most shocking thing about the Red Cup- for me at least- was something I found out while researching this article. The Red Cup comes in many sizes and the biggest of them is 30 fluid ounces. 30 fluid ounces! That’s a pint and a half in British money. Who the hell drinks a pint and a half of coffee in one sitting? No wonder everyone is getting so jittery about this whole subject.
But Christmas is a subject that gets lots of people jittery. Hence all this “Happy Holidays” nonsense. I really don’t like that. And the reason I really don’t like it is not because I am religious, because I’m not. The reason is because the whole “Happy Holidays” idea claims to be about tolerance, whereas it is actually about intolerance.
Let’s be honest. Christmas is not about Jesus. It’s a winter festival that was hijacked by the Christian church centuries ago. Lots of cultures have winter festivals and most of them happen around about the same time. Most of them have religious themes, but they are all really about one thing. Having a big party together because winter is on its way and we’re not all going to get through it alive.
Despite what the famous hymn claims, Christmas is not “in the deep mid-winter”. It is just after the solstice. Right at the beginning of winter. And, as the weathermen say every year “when the days grow longer, the cold grows stronger.”
Where I live, in Great Britain, virtually everyone wishes virtually everyone else a Happy Christmas regardless of race creed or colour. And that is how it should be. Wishing someone who isn’t a Christian a Happy Christmas is just inviting that person to your winter hearth, if only metaphorically. That’s a nice thing to do, surely? And if a Hindu wishes a Christian a Happy Diwali, surely that should be taken as a sign of welcoming and acceptance and not something to be affronted by?
So when Christmas is upon us, wish someone a Merry Christmas or a Happy Hanukkah. Or even- fuck it yeah, why not?- Happy Holidays if you really think they might be genuinely offended by any other way of expressing the sentiment. Whatever you do, just wish them well. Because one thing is for certain.
Winter is coming, it’s going to be horrible and no amount of arguing about coffee cups is going to alter that fact.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2015