Opinion: Let me be Happy about Starbucks’ Red Cups

In keeping with annual tradition, this past Friday saw Starbucks unveil their holiday-themed “red cups” — a mainstay of the season for many. In the interest of full transparency, I am undeniably one of the many; I await every November 2nd with anticipation to see just what designs Starbucks will come up with. They’re the designs that will be keeping me company during the long nights of winter exam season, and in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

My personal favourites have been the modernist two-tone 2014 cups...

And the subtly-varied-yet-elegant cups of that hallowed year, 2016.

(yes, I have favourite years, get over it.)

And yet, every year there are detractors, both within the Starbucks-sympathizers camp and outside of it. There are those who say that the cups are nothing more than a perversion of the season — a disingenuous cash-grab from a company who doesn’t actually care about spreading holiday spirit. There are those who criticize the cups for not being christmasy enough — often the same people who claim that there is a “war on Christmas” (there isn’t, for the record, Christmas continues to be far and away the most ubiquitous holiday in the history of Western civilization).

There are also those who claim that the cups unfairly ostracize those who do not celebrate Christmas, which I believe is a reasonable criticism. To them I would say that Starbucks, especially in recent years, has done much to remedy this issue: throughout the holiday season, Starbucks sells gift cards that feature Hanukkah messages, as well as a host of entirely secular ones. The cup designs this year include a nondescript red and pink stripe pattern, a star pattern, a red and white Escher-like pattern, and a pattern of holly leaves and berries. None of these are explicitly Christmas-themed, though I would be remiss to not acknowledge that they are in keeping with a tradition that was born out of, and primarily celebrates Christmas as opposed to any other holiday.

Despite all of this, the cups mean a lot to me — which at this point you probably think is silly. In fact, in a number of ways, I find it silly myself.​ What kind of grown adult finds joy in the marketing strategies of what is essentially a fast food chain?

Well, this kind of grown adult, apparently. And the more I think about it, the more okay I am with it. I know it might be asinine, and perhaps I am buying into a consumerist culture that was famously critiqued in the poignant and moving film Miracle on 34th Street over 70 years ago…

But ultimately it’s a matter of joy. There’s not nearly enough of it in the world, and if I can find even just a little bit in a goddamn cup, well frankly I don’t see anything wrong with that.

photo credits: Starbucks/Starbucks/Starbucks