Starbucks Christmas cups have never featured Jesus or other religious symbols, so the idea that they have been “removed” this year is false. But the company was still targeted in November 2015 as part of a right-wing disinformation campaign centered around an imaginary “war on Christmas.”
The company released its Christmas-themed cups that October, featuring a “two-toned ombre design, with a bright poppy color on top that shades into a darker cranberry below,” according to Starbucks’ the website::
Since 1997 Starbucks has served its holiday beverages in a unique cup, starting with a jazz-themed design in jewel tones of deeper reds, greens and blues. Every year since, the cup has told a story of the holidays by featuring symbols of the season from vintage ornaments and hand-drawn reindeer to modern vector-illustrated characters.
“In the past, we have told stories with our holiday cups designs,” said Fields. “This year we wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories.”
In the nearly two decades since the first red Starbucks cup, the company has grown from 1,400 stores in a handful of countries to more than 22,000 stores in 68 markets around the world.
“Starbucks has become a place of sanctuary during the holidays,” he said. “We’re embracing the simplicity and the quietness of it. It’s more open way to usher in the holiday.”
In fact, there have never been any religious symbols featured in Starbucks’ yearly Christmas cups since the company began releasing them in 1997.
Past holiday cups have featured “swirling snowflakes” (1998) and “a village of coffee and tea pots against a nighttime sky” (2000).
So claiming that a religious figure was “removed” from the company’s memorabilia is disinformation. But that did not stop Joshua Feuerstein, a self-described former pastor, from using Facebook to falsely claim otherwise.
Feuerstein attracted media attention after posting a video accusing the coffee house chain of taking Jesus off of their cups (which, again, never featured him to begin with) and encouraging people to manipulate the company’s ordering protocols. He said in the video, which was later taken down:
“Do you realize that Starbucks wanted to take Christ and Christmas off of their brand new cups? That’s why they’re just plain red.
In fact, do you realize that Starbucks isn’t allowed to say Merry Christmas to customers?
And guess what. Starbucks, I tricked you into putting Merry Christmas on your cup. And I’m challenging all great Americans and Christians around this great nation: Go into Starbucks and take your own coffee selfie.”
In response, Starbucks said its 2015 Christmas cups are intended to be a “blank canvas” that encourages “customers to tell their Christmas stories in their own way.”
So, it’s true that Starbucks Christmas cups don’t say “Merry Christmas,” or feature any Christian references, but that’s not a new development. The company hasn’t featured Christian symbols on its Christmas cups since they were first unveiled in 1997.
While Feuerstein himself was later banned from Facebook, he has continued to sow disinformation online; in July 2020 he claimed, falsely, that the death rate from the COVID-19 pandemic had been “inflated” and ranted that only “sheep” would follow public health mandates to mitigate the spread of the disease, which has killed more than 318,000 people in the U.S. and more than 1 million people worldwide.
Update 12/10/2019, 10:47am: This article has been revamped and updated. You can review the original here.