Amid furor, calls for boycotts and negative comments about their new, red holiday cups, Starbucks responded on Sunday with a statement that detailed the "story behind the design" and affirmed its commitment to "welcome customers from all backgrounds."
"When red Starbucks cups return, it’s a signal that the holiday season is drawing near," the company said in a statement. "This year’s iconic red Starbucks cup features a two-toned ombré design, with a bright poppy color on top that shades into a darker cranberry below."
Starbucks noted that it has created red holiday cups since 1997, explaining that, each year, the cup design 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."
But the 2015 design — which is plain and devoid of any holiday symbols — has led to anger among those who believe that the company is intentionally removing references to Christmas in an effort to be overtly politically correct.
The debate touched off and went viral after Christian evangelist Joshua Feuerstein lambasted the red cups in a Facebook video on November 5, encouraging Christians to start a movement against the effort.
Starbucks REMOVED CHRISTMAS from their cups because they hate Jesus ... SO I PRANKED THEM ... and they HATE IT!!!! #shareUse #MERRYCHRISTMASSTARBUCKSFollow --> Joshua FeuersteinPosted by Joshua Feuerstein on Thursday, November 5, 2015
"I think in the age of political correctness we've become so open minded our brains have literally fallen out of our head," Feuerstein said. "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."
The evangelist said that he recently went into Starbucks, ordered a drink and told the barista that his name was "Merry Christmas" — an act that led to the popular holiday greeting being placed on the cup with a marker, despite the decision to leave it out of the official design.
Listen to Feuerstein discuss the issue below:
While some believe that the cup design is an assault on the holiday season, others aren't so sure. Here are just some of the responses floating around Twitter:
I am a capitalist. Starbucks has the best coffee. I don't go for salvation. I go for caffeine. But I will tell the barista Merry Christmas— DidSheSayThat (@SonnieJohnson) November 9, 2015
Starbucks hates Christ and Christmas? No Christmas on their cups and no decor? No surprise in that! Make your own coffee!— James David Brown (@DrJDavidBrown) November 9, 2015
As a Christian, I can tell you that the color of Starbucks cups have nothing to do with Jesus, the gospel, or Christianity. They are cups.— MICHAEL (@MCastroMusic) November 9, 2015
So we're all supposed to be shocked and upset that Starbucks turns out to be a distillation of yuppie secular culture? Well, raise my rent!— Kevin D. Williamson (@KevinNR) November 8, 2015
Starbucks responded to the furor that followed by noting that the plain, red cups mimic "a blank canvas" and that customers can use to tell their own stories. The company said that the new design is a "more open way to usher in the holidays."
"In the past, we have told stories with our holiday cuvps designs," Jeffrey Fields, Starbucks vice president of design and content, said in a statement. "This year we wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories."
The press release noted that Starbucks has expanded since creating its first holiday cup from just 1,400 stores in a few countries to more than 23,000 stores across the globe.
"Starbucks has become a place of sanctuary during the holidays," Fields added. "We’re embracing the simplicity and the quietness of it. It’s more open way to usher in the holiday."
The statement from the coffee giant concludes by noting that being diverse and inclusive is one of the brand's "core values," with the last line reading, "Starbucks will continue to embrace and welcome customers from all backgrounds and religions in our stores around the world."
It should be noted that Starbucks — cup design aside — sells an advent calendar as well as Christmas blend coffee.