What’s the significance of the red cup at Starbucks? New holiday design causes a controversy


There’s a new controversy brewing for the coffee giant–and, this time, it isn’t revolving around the high price per cup. Instead, Starbucks is facing criticism over its holiday cups.

Aficionados of the brand are familiar with Starbucks’ holiday cups, which include pictures representative of Christmas: including reindeer, ornaments, carolers, and the like.

Starbucks Old Holiday Cups

However, this year, the company went in a different direction. Instead of choosing a new design, the company opted for a simple look: red, with a Starbucks logo.

While most people wouldn’t think much about it, an Arizona man is irate over the change.

Joshua Feuerstein, a former pastor who now uses social media to share the gospel of Jesus, interpreted the lack of traditional Christmas images as a signal that Starbucks is trying to quiet Christians.

Joshua Feuerstein

Joshua took to Facebook to vent his frustrations over the cup and challenge “all great Americans and Christians” to take a stance against Starbucks.

He’s urging customers to tell the barista their name is “Merry Christmas,” which forces Starbucks to write the holiday slogan on its cups and call out “Merry Christmas” when their order is ready.

Starbucks REMOVED CHRISTMAS from their cups because they hate Jesus … SO I PRANKED THEM … and they HATE IT!!!! #shareUse #MERRYCHRISTMASSTARBUCKSFollow –> Joshua Feuerstein

Posted by Joshua Feuerstein on Thursday, November 5, 2015

While the controversy may seem petty, Joshua’s challenge is quickly building momentum. His proposed hashtag, #MerryChristmasStarbucks, is trending; news outlets are reporting the story; and, now, celebs are even speaking out.

Conservative Christian Candace Bure, who is known for sharing biblical truths, doesn’t feel compelled by the claims.

“Starbucks War on Christmas? It’s a red cup, folks,” Candace said. “Until Starbucks puts a baby Jesus or nativity scene on the cup while saying Merry Christmas, then pulls it because they say it’s offensive, let’s talk. I don’t remember Starbucks ever being a Christian company, do you?”

Others like Candace are sharing their view of the insignificance of the Starbucks cup. This user posted a picture of the cup with the saying, “If coffee cups define your Christmas, honey it’s you who needs Jesus.”

Jesus Doesnt Care

Still, plenty of others are joining in on Joshua’s challenge.

Feuerstein maintains that his stance doesn’t revolve around the cup but a bigger issue he sees in this country.

“Again, this is not about a cup. This is about a much bigger war on Christmas that has seen nativity scenes taken down, Christmas trees not allowed in malls, and all in the name of political correctness,” he said.

Starbucks, on the other hand, claims there’s no attempt to stifle Christmas with the redesign. In a statement to Today, the company said:


Starbucks is inviting our customers to tell their Christmas stories in their own way, with a red cup that mimics a blank canvas. Over the past few years, our customers have been showcasing their work on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest, and we even held a contest to support this creativity. This year’s design is another way we are inviting our customers to create their own stories on our cups.


At the end of the day, Joshua–whose livelihood is based on social media–and Starbucks are both gaining tons of press. And there’s no such thing as bad PR, right?


  • twelfthnight

    People will get upset over everything. While I did like some of their previous cup designs, (I’m not a starbucks drinker at all, but I’ve purchased some of their mugs secondhand because I like the mugs) they’ve been getting more and more minimalist over the years. How do these whackadoos not see that? The logo itself has been made so much more simple in recent years.

    The cups are evolving in the same way. Within the last 8 years the cups have gone from fairly heavily designed to extremely simple. IIRC last year (or the year before?) was just red-on-red big designs resembling hastily sketched trees and stars, or a very simple geometric-style design.

    The only reasonable reason to get upset about this is if you’re a collector of Starbucks mugs and cups. This year’s will be pretty boring.

    • Jill S.

      I agree. This is Just another “non-issue” made into an issue by the media to divide the people. It’s so ridiculous. What’s even more ridiculous are the people falling into their trap and actually getting upset over a cup design… It’s so damn stupid.

      Why is everyone offended by every single thing? Isn’t everybody sick of this whining? Isn’t everyone sick of losing their freedoms?!? Tim Wolfe forced to resign, Donald Sterling forced to sell his NBA team, free speech not allowed on PUBLIC campuses, etc. We have expensive health insurance forced on all of us. Even auto insurance is forced on us (thank god for $25/month Insurance Panda coverage). What’s next? Mandatory phone insurance? We have taxes on top of taxes and our freedoms are slowly disappearing. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington would be rolling in their graves.

      I personally Love Jesus and Christmas but the design on my cup does not define my Christmas nor my relationship with God.
      Stop falling into the media traps people.

      • twelfthnight

        My favorite is that there are so many people getting upset over “Taking the Christ out of Christmas” when in reality, many, if not most, of the traditions we observe every year for ‘Christmas’ are Yule traditions.

        These hardcore Christians are having Pagan Yule with a sprinkle of Jesus and they don’t even know it.

  • DZBabe

    Maybe they are being considerate to customers who don’t celebrate Christmas? Idk. Its definitely nothing to be angry over. Personally, I invested my money in a keriug and make my coffee at home.

  • Josie

    Christian entitlement at its finest.

  • MsAwesomePants

    I’ve heard the Christmas story many, many times, and I have NEVER heard about reindeer or polar bears in the telling. Camels & donkeys, yes. Sledding bears, no.

    So, while I particularly like sledding polar bears, I’m not declaring this a war on Christmas.

    Also, I seriously doubt Starbucks hates the “prank” he pulled on them.

    • PerfectingPaula

      Exactly!!! Why would Starbucks hate the free advertising? Not everyone will agree with this man. I’m a Christian and I don’t agree with him. In fact, another way to think of this is, logos of the past did nothing to promote Christian beliefs. As was pointed out, none of the designs were of a religious nature.

  • Courtney

    In a way I understand his point. It’s not just about the cup it’s just an example. His anger took away from what he was trying to say but I feel companies are trying to be PC and the true meaning of Christmas is becoming less and less about Jesus. He could have stated his opinion without the anger and with a few other examples and people would have understood better.

    • TA

      The true meaning of Christmas is different for everyone. If you want everyone to be considerate of your beliefs and what you choose to celebrate during a certain time of year, that freedom should be given to everyone. It has nothing to do with being politically correct, and everything to with “do unto others as you would have done to you.”
      You can’t have it both ways.

      • Courtney

        Wow, calm down. I never said Christmas is only for religious people. It started because it is Jesus’s birthday and now it just feels like people are trying to be so PC that it’s now some how insulting to have religion incorporated into Christmas decor. I NEVER said what you are trying to make it sound like I said. People can celebrate Christmas how ever they like!

        • Guest

          It started as Jesus’ birthday huh? You need to do some research about pagans. Pretty much every holiday Christians celebrate was taken from pagans. Also I’ll just leave this here:
          Jeremiah 10:2-4King James Version (KJV)

          2 Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.

          3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.

          4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.

        • TA

          Jesus was probably born in September based on historical evidence compared to the Bible about the culture.
          And Christmas as a celebration has its roots in Roman and Pagan traditions. Celebration of the winter solstice and the return of the sun.
          It wasn’t until 300 years after his birth that the church began celebrating Christ’s birth. And it was not mandated by the church until the 5th century as an official celebration of Christ.

  • TA

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but has Starbucks ever had a scene of Baby Jesus laying in a manger on their holiday cups? No.
    For people of the Christian faith, that’s what Christmas is all about.
    Not polar bears or penguins on sleds wearing scarves, or a drawing of Santa with a bag of toys on his back.

  • ebroadhurst

    Why do Christians feel the need to convert everyone. Just because YOU think that is was Jesus’ birthday, doesn’t mean I do? Christmas is about Santa and loving your family and friends and having a good time. Not putting a friggin snowflake on a cup has NOTHING to do with ‘the true meaning of Christmas.’

  • DVM

    I’m a practicing Catholic, and I think the controversy is stupid. It’s a red cup, move on. It’s not like they but satan on the cup.

  • GingerAnn1212

    It’s a paper cup that you are going to throw away. Reverend Joshua needs to spend his free time focusing on something worthwhile like feeding and housing homeless children.

    • LaLa84

      But that cause won’t get him notoriety. We all know that that’s really what he is seeking, his 15 minutes of Facebook fame.

      • TA

        Exactly. His IG profile says “Facebook Personality.”
        All he cares about is the attention, even if it’s negative.

  • DeeDeDee

    The genius that is Joshua also started the “They’re teach ’bout them there Muzlims in are skoolz.”

    The guy is the king of creating controversy where there is none. And of course, there is a pack or tribe of stupid people following not so far behind him, ready to believe everything he says. -.-

    Am I the only one that actually enjoys the simplicity of the just a basic cup? No fancy designs that try too hard or cutesie designs that are just… meh. Maybe it’s because I’m the devil. Hmph.

  • LaLa84

    This “pastor” is just trying to get his 15 minutes of fame.
    This is the most petty, ignorant complaint that I have ever seen. Since when does a reindeer or snow man represent Christmas? That’s just holiday themed imagery! The old cups don’t appear to say anything about “CHRISTMAS” whatsoever, so I don’t believe Starbucks is backing any particular religious with the old designs. Maybe they were shooting for a more sophisticated, elegant, streamlined look this season.

    Hey Josh whatever your last name is… turn your hat forward and stop looking and acting like such a douche.

    • TA

      Every year, Starbucks makes a Christmas blend, available in many varieties. It says “Christmas Blend” on the package. This year is no different than previous years. This guy is a complete idiot.

      He also said he wouldn’t allow his children to have American Girl dolls because a recent magazine of theirs featured a gay couple and their 4 adopted children.

      • GingerAnn1212

        American Girl is crying all the way to the bank. . . he’s a true idiot and that is the last I am saying about the man. 🙂

  • DanaD

    I love how instead of not going to Starbucks since he hates the new cups he decided to “prank” them and is encouraging others to do the same. Trust me they aren’t mad. Those Starbucks owners are high fiving and rubbing there hands together right now! ?

  • Brandy

    Christian here, not offended by Starbucks cups. You know what bothers me? The fact that so many people will spend a cold and miserable winter out on the streets. Men, women, Children going hungry. Take that $5 you’re going to use to “prank” Starbucks and donate it to a food bank.

  • barbinop

    Ridiculous. Just a ploy for free advertising for Starbucks.

  • Jacob Aud


    Mistletoe, holly:

    “”The Druids ascribed magical properties to the mistletoe in
    particular. The evergreen holly was worshiped as a promise of the sun’s
    return.””—The Encyclopedia Americana.

    Christmas tree:

    “”Tree worship, common among the pagan Europeans, survived after their
    conversion to Christianity.”” One of the ways in which tree worship
    survived is in the custom of “”placing a Yule tree at an entrance or
    inside the house in the midwinter holidays.””—Encyclopædia Britannica.

    Celebrating Jesus’ birthday:

    “”The early Christians did not celebrate [Jesus’] birth because they
    considered the celebration of anyone’s birth to be a pagan custom.””—The
    World Book Encyclopedia.

    December 25:
    There is no
    proof that Jesus was born on that date. Church leaders likely chose this
    date to coincide with pagan festivals held on or around the winter

    Gift-giving, feasting, partying:
    Encyclopedia Americana says: “”Saturnalia, a Roman feast celebrated in
    mid-December, provided the model for many of the merry-making customs of
    Christmas. From this celebration, for example, were derived the
    elaborate feasting, the giving of gifts, and the burning of candles.””
    The Encyclopædia Britannica notes that “”all work and business were
    suspended”” during Saturnalia.

    Christmas lights:

    According to The Encyclopedia of Religion, Europeans decorated their
    homes “”with lights and evergreens of all kinds”” to celebrate the
    winter solstice and to combat evil spirits.