Red (Starbucks) Cup 


Starbucks heralds in the holiday season. 

Earlier today I walked into Starbucks and ordered my daily afternoon caffeine fix. After paying, I waited by the bar while listening to the soft jazz and admiring the black and white photographs on the wall. The barista handed me my drink, and I looked down to reach for my steaming drink to see that it was in a red cup. A red cup? It’s November, not Christmas time. The woman clearly observed my shock and quickly explained, “Yes, we now start giving out red cups in November.” The cup speaks for itself. Winter is coming.

Starbucks has created their signature red cups since 1997, each year with a slight twist. This year’s cup has a soft ombre effect; unlike the kitschy designs from years past, which have featured everything from snowflakes to reindeer. In a company statement earlier this year, Jeffrey Fields, the vice president of design, said “Starbucks has become a place of sanctuary during the holidays. We’re embracing the simplicity and quietness of it.” To promote these new cups, #redcup seems to be trending on Instagram lately. I have to say though, these pictures aren’t too riveting—how interesting can you make a picture on a red Starbucks cup?

Despite my fondness for Christmas and admiration for the Starbucks tradition of the red cup, I have to say, I was a bit unnerved to see this symbol of the holidays pop up so early. While Starbucks has yet to start playing Christmas songs in their stores, does it not feel a bit premature to bringing out my coffee’s winter wardrobe? I mean, my own winter coat is still in storage!

However, this early anticipation of Christmas is hardly unique; in fact, it is only one example of a larger trend of large corporations capitalizing on commercial holidays. Valentine’s Day was essentially created by Hallmark. Ricky’s NYC and the Garment District in Kendall Square must double their revenue around Halloween. Cadbury lives for Easter. Sometimes it seems the whole year can be divided up by holiday advertising: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Valentines Day, Easter, and “Summer Vacation.” Of course we enjoy the celebrations and vacation times, but how much are these holidays driven by corporate initiatives?

Take Halloween, a communal, secular holiday with possible Celtic origins. This year, CNN estimated that $6.9 Billion was spent on Halloween candy in the United States. They also estimated that Americans would spend an average of $74.34 on candy, costumes, and decorations. Doesn’t that seem a bit much for a holiday without any true spiritual or cultural connotation? I can just picture the CEO of Hershey’s laughing out loud at our ridiculous spending driven by this commercially constructed holiday.

Perhaps all of these material associations with holidays are distracting us from their main purpose: to bring people together, to foster enjoyment, relaxation, and community. When I walked out of Starbucks with my red cup, instead of feeling excited about Christmas, I felt its material burden. The commercial pressure advertising places to anticipate and celebrate events with tangible items takes away from our ability to appreciate the moment when it comes. So this year, I’m boycotting the red cup and staying home to brew my own coffee instead. Christmas isn’t coming for a while now, and this year, it’s all about the love, baby.


Ritchey Howe ‘17 ( refuses to believe it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.