Amid the real issues and challenges our society faces headed toward an election year comes this one that blew up the Internet last week: The coffee chain Starbucks came up with a plain red holiday cup that some didn’t deem festive or “Christmasy” enough. Then the whole “war on Christmas” chorus erupted anew.
Never mind that in past years, Starbucks cups featured images like snowflakes, snowmen and winter scenes that, when you think about, also have little to do with Christmas, Jesus or any of the holiday’s religious roots.
There’s also the idea that any national retailer who wants to blend the celebrations of a wide, diverse country from just Christmas into an overall holiday celebration is free to do so. Companies don’t just want to sell goods to Christians; other folks drink coffee, too, and it makes good business sense to reach out to everyone. It’s less about not offending someone and more about trying to be inclusive to everyone, which should be one of the enduring messages of the Christmas season.
Anyway, it’s a coffee shop; you don’t like the cup, go somewhere else.
All these arguments often seem lost, however, on a select few who cling to nostalgia for a uniformity of faith that never really existed. This has never been a nation in lockstep with one set of beliefs; it just seemed that way when a majority held sway over public displays and mass media.
Now this notion manifests itself politically and socially in battles over public prayer and other religious expressions. Those who wage them seem to equate the idea of accepting all faiths as the rejection of one. Yet the Constitution gives us the right to believe what we wish, or not at all, long may it reign.
And to no one’s surprise, there are fawning politicians all too eager to cash in on this single-minded sentiment. Donald Trump urged a boycott of Starbucks and claimed, “If I become president, we’re all going to be saying, ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
Hmm. Will that mandate come via legislation or executive order? Will it apply to folks who are Jewish, Muslim or atheist? And will the Andy Williams’ classic tune “Happy Holidays” be banned, along with every other secular carol?
Everyone knows Christmas is a religious holiday. You can no more take Christ out of Christmas than you can take patriotic fervor out of July Fourth. Those who suggest otherwise are looking for a point of contention rather than a point of faith.
Yet it’s worth noting the Jesus whom Christians celebrate at Christmas was never recorded asking his disciples to celebrate his birth. Of course, wise men and shepherds praised him, but that story seems to be most of all about love in lowly places.
Outrage directed at a company selling expensive coffee seems a far cry from the heart of the Christmas message. We would all be better off investing our energy in sharing the love found in the Gospels rather than complaining about a secular world acting with secular motivation.
While some argue over a cup not being “Christmasy” enough, there are an awful lot of people who can’t afford a Starbucks beverage and could benefit from true Christian charity.
A company isn’t required to celebrate a religious holiday with decorated cups or employees saying “Merry Christmas.” They don’t have to tell customers Happy Hanukkah or Ramadan Mubarak, either. In a period of time that includes many celebrations, “Seasons Greetings” can cover them all.
A half-century ago, Charlie Brown lamented the commercialization of Christmas in the classic Peanuts TV special, and it’s only become more so since. Yet somehow the missing images of snowflakes on a coffee cup — one you have to buy, by the way — reflects the lost meaning of the holiday? Give us a break.
Christmas isn’t under attack, not by a long shot. Nearly everyone gets the day off from work, whether they celebrate its Christian roots or not. Much of society will grind to a halt throughout the day Dec. 24 and stay that way through the holiday. Billions will be spent on gifts, decorations, food and other celebratory goods. Cities and counties will throw Christmas parades, every store and mall will welcome Santa Claus and kids will get two weeks off from their “government schools” to celebrate their “winter holidays” (wink, wink). Whatever anyone calls it, it’s all still based on Christmas.
If all that is aimed at destroying the true essence of the holiday, it’s not doing a very good job of it.
Christmas still is what we each make it, in our homes and hearts. Celebrate it to the degree it feels right for you. Embrace the spiritual side of the holiday if that’s what your soul seeks. And if that’s not your cup of tea (or coffee), shop till you drop, hang tinsel and belt out “Winter Wonderland” instead. Nobody’s making anyone do otherwise.
That’s the beauty of living in a land with a First Amendment that grants the freedom to pursue our beliefs as we see fit.
To send a letter to the editor, use this form or send to email@example.com. The Times editorial board includes Publisher Charlotte Atkins, General Manager Norman Baggs and Editor Keith Albertson.