A lot of people are up in arms about Starbucks’ decision to introduce plain red holiday cups in favor of its classic designs, which, in years past, featured iconic images like snowmen and reindeer. Some are viewing the coffee giant’s decision as an assault against Christmas and have taken to social media to blast their displeasure to the world. Starbucks, however, maintains that its minimalist design was in no way intended as a war on Christmas, but rather as an opportunity for customers to create their own stories against a blank holiday canvas.
As a Jewish parent, I can appreciate the fact that Starbucks, whether intentionally or not, is acknowledging that the holiday season is not just about Christmas. Keep in mind, however, that I’m one of those people who tends to embrace the Christmas spirit, at least in its non-religious form. In fact, I’m the type who actually doesn’t groan and switch stations when “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” starts playing for the 8th straight time in a row. But among my Hanukkah-celebrating friends (and even some of my Christian friends), I tend to be the minority.
Many of my Jewish friends can’t help but feel that decking the town (well, at least the shops and supermarkets) with tinsel and mistletoe is just plain overkill. Their annoyance is generally twofold, stemming from both the oversaturation of Christmas-themed cheer and the fact that they, as Jews, are inevitably left out. (I mean, when’s the last time you walked through your local grocery store and found yourself surrounded with blue and white streamers as “Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel” played in the background?)
But here’s the thing: I find that year after year, I’m constantly defending the holiday hoopla on the premise that much of the fanfare isn’t about religion at all, but rather about a time of the year when we’re all supposed to be generally merry, generous, and kind to one another. They call it the holiday spirit for a reason, and I believe it has much more to do with humanity than any particular religion, be it mine or somebody else’s. It doesn’t have to be a matter of Christmas versus Hanukkah; there’s no reason why the two, plus whatever other holidays people enjoy celebrating this time of year, can’t happily coexist.
Rather than choose to be offended that much of the holiday buzz tends to be Christmas-focused, I prefer a different route: reveling in the fun, non-religious part of Christmas. The part that inspires people to adorn their homes with festive lights. The part that prompts supermarkets to set up large displays of seasonal chocolates, candy canes, and hot cocoa. The part that inspires all of us to be just a bit more giving and friendly toward one another, whether we share the same religion or simply desire to get caught up in whatever’s in the air.
And so when I walk into Starbucks and see that plain red cup, I’m going to actively choose to embrace it for what it is: a sign that the holidays—all of the holidays—are upon us. I’m not going to get offended that the color of the cup is generally more associated with Christmas than Hanukkah. Instead, I’m going to order my latte, wait for my drink, and wish the barista who hands it over a happy holiday season. May it be a joyous one for all us, no matter how or when we choose to celebrate.