A Cuppa Joe: A Cuppa Joy or A Cuppa Controversy?!

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The so-called War on Christmas continues!

Starbucks, an unintentional player in this cultural battle, has recently issued its annual seasonal holiday cup design.  This, in and of itself, should not herald any controversy. However, it probably should come as no surprise that the conservative right excoriated Starbucks in years past for serving coffee beverages in seasonal but plain red cups. The reason? They were noticeably devoid of any holiday image. According to CNN in 2015, Jeffrey Fields, vice president of Starbucks, said at the time that the company “wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories.”Outraged by this corporate posture, conservative activists fueled a negative social media campaign against Starbucks. (The so-called  “great plain red cup of fiasco of 2015.”)

Lest one think that the controversy might have fallen by the wayside in the wake of other more serious issues, the War on Christmas cups erupted again last year when Starbucks issued green cups “in the name of diversity.” These cups were again met with a howl by conservatives and a call by our Christmas War-focused President to boycott the company because it apparently doesn’t embrace Christmas like it once did.

This year the silliness continues.  Starbucks has opted for white cups with outlines of holiday images. Customers can color in the designs to reflect their own aesthetic and traditions: “The holidays mean something different to everyone,” a Starbucks video explains. This season the cup is just the beginning. How you make it special is up to you.” Accompanying a hot beverage is a sleeve that simply states “Give Good.” (This denotes the theme of Starbucks’ holiday campaign.)

We applaud Starbucks for its intended inclusiveness! Who knew that a cuppa joe could generate such a cuppa controversy!

See: http://www.latimes.com/food/sns-dailymeal-1856035-drink-starbucks-releases-2017-holiday-cups-103117-20171101-story.html

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It’s That Time of Year Again!

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Here we go again! It’s not even Halloween and a gauntlet has been thrown down. The underpinning is the greeting “Merry Christmas.” A bit early for this, one might think.

The notion of a War on Christmas has therefore been politicized beyond all previous boundaries. In this particular year, the issue has gained national prominence bandied about during both the run-up to the presidential election of last year and now as a hallmark to a divisive political agenda. Poisoned rhetoric has distorted and amplified holiday greetings and decorations into acrimonious and divisive political statements. The all-inclusive phrase “Happy Holidays” has been transmuted into an insult to Christianity.

So, let’s take a look at this issue from an historical perspective.

For many years, debates centered on the what has been termed the “Christmas Wars” have taken place somewhat obscurely on socially, politically and religiously conservative talk radio and cable programs. Regardless of which strategies Jews in America have employed to face Christmas, most Americans remained largely unaware of the internal December debates taking place within Jewish communities throughout the United States. However, the cumulative effect of questioning the role of Christmas in America by Jews for over one hundred years increasingly helped the population at large to understand that not everyone celebrates Christmas. As minority groups immigrated in increasingly larger numbers to the United States and brought with them various religious traditions, Americans in leadership positions within local municipalities, school districts and public schools became more sensitive to those who felt excluded from Christmas festivities. Municipalities and public schools, in becoming more aware of diversity, neutralized the holiday celebration so as not to offend Americans with differing religious traditions. By the early twenty-first century, instead of wishing one another a “Merry Christmas,” for example, Americans began to wish each other “Happy Holidays.” School programs and concerts began to be referred to as winter celebrations rather than Christmas festivals.  Office parties took on the moniker of holiday party rather than Christmas party.

By the second decade of the twenty-first century, despite vocal assertions by certain conservative religious and political groups that America should be considered a Christian nation, most American citizens had come to accept the reality that Christmas was not the only December holiday that should be accorded national recognition. With this realization came an acknowledgment that certain accommodations would have to be made to allow other religious symbols to join those of Christmas in the public domain, particularly when those symbols also reinforced American values. Seventy-five years ago, it was songwriter Irving Berlin who taught the American people, through the ever popular song White Christmas, that the country’s goal in celebrating Christmas was not to practice religion but to employ its symbols to promote American ideals of home, family, freedom, and patriotism. Certainly, both Christmas and Hanukah now accomplish this goal for many Americans.

As Michael Che succinctly rejoined on the “Weekend Update” on Saturday Night Live (aired on October 14, 2017): “When we say ‘Happy Holidays’ we’re not attacking Christmas, we’re saying ‘All Holidays Matter.’ ”

Happy Holidays!