War on Yule: Starbucks Cups Are Christian Propaganda

I am outraged, dear readers, and let me tell you why.

Imagine this scenario: on the morning of November 1st, you head over to your local Starbucks for a pick-me-up to cope with your post-Samhain lethargy — when the barista hands you your usual (venti nonfat, half-caf, no-whip, no foam latte, with a slight dusting of cinnamon (but no nutmeg!)) in this monstrosity:


I ask you, what would you think? How would you feel, confronted with such an outrageous, bald-faced example of Christian propaganda being shoved down your throat?

Where are the classic Pagan symbols of holiday cheer that we’ve come to know and love so well? Every year, Starbucks incorporates a wide variety of anti-Christian imagery onto their seasonal cups: from polytheistic depictions of elves and Old Man Winter, to Wiccan ritual tools like silver bells, candles and crystal balls, animistic talking reindeer and sentient snowmen, even godless environmentalist images of fir trees, birds and snowflakes.

But not this year, oh no! This year, Starbucks has completely capitulated to the growing pressure from right-wing fundamentalist Christian groups to “put the Christ back in Yule” by creating a holiday cup design that not only rejects all the Pagan symbolism of this blessed time of year, but actively promotes a Christian worldview.

Don’t believe me? Consider this:

• The cup is a bright red: symbolizing the blood of Christ, who suffered on the cross.

• The Starbucks logo is green, symbolizing the everlasting life given to the followers of Christ by God.

• The Starbucks logo itself depicts a smiling woman wearing a starry crown, holding what looks like some kind of scarf, blanket or other fabric: this is clearly meant to represent the Virgin Mary, sometimes called the Queen of Heaven, holding the swaddling clothes with which she wrapped the baby Jesus. The woman is depicted in white against a green background, symbolizing Mary’s everlasting virginity; her breasts are covered, symbolizing the immaculate conception.

• The star in the woman’s crown is the Star of Bethlehem that led the Wise Men to baby Jesus in the manger.

• The lid of the cup is white — symbolizing the perfect purity of God in the “vault of heaven” (which is above all things, like the lid is above the contents of the cup) — and plastic — symbolizing God’s incorruptibility, for He is not susceptible to the processes of death and decay that inevitably break down all things on this fallen earth.

• In several places, the cup includes a warning that “Contents are extremely hot.” Not only is this a nod to the Christian extremists that Starbucks is attempting to placate, but it also references how Jesus said he detests “lukewarm” believers.

• The protective sleeve that comes with the cup is an undyed corrugated cardboard, labeled “85% post-consumer content” — this symbolizes God’s humble incarnation as Christ in the lowly form of a human baby, in order to save believers from the burning fires of Hell. However, the sleeve also states, “Intended for single use only,” reminding believers that they have only this one lifetime in which to turn to God, or else face eternal damnation.

• The whole design of the cup is intentionally minimalist, symbolizing the asceticism of the early Desert Fathers who followed Christ’s example of rejecting worldly power while wandering in the desert. There are no other symbols on the cup, symbolizing an ideal Christianity free from the corruption of foreign Pagan influences.

If that wasn’t enough, look carefully at the cup one more time: the color actually fades from a darker cranberry red on the bottom into a lighter, energetic poppy red on top, symbolizing the ascent of Christ’s followers towards the lighter, brighter purity of heaven — but this ombré effect is incredibly subtle and difficult to notice, just like Christian propaganda itself.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’ve probably heard the rumors going around online about how some Christians are upset at Starbucks for their holiday cup designs this year, claiming that it shows how Starbucks actually “hates Jesus.” But those people have it all wrong! Would a company that hates Jesus roll out their winter holiday-themed cups literally the very morning after the biggest Pagan holy day of the year? I don’t think so! Starbucks couldn’t wait to start pumping out their Christian message as quickly as they pump out their eggnog and peppermint-flavored coffee blends.

So this year, think carefully about your coffee choices. I won’t ask you to boycott Starbucks — I’m not a monster — but why not have a bit of fun? When you get your plain red Starbucks cup, take the opportunity to decorate it with as many Pagan and Yule designs as you can! Or, trick that hard-working bedraggled barista into decorating it for you by telling her that your name is “Snowflake, Snowflake, Christmas Tree, Rudolph, Happy Snowman,” spelled entirely in emoji.

That’ll show ’em! That’ll show ’em all…

Alison Leigh Lilly
Alison Leigh Lilly nurtures the earth-rooted, sea-soaked, mist-and-mystic spiritual heritage of her Celtic ancestors, exploring themes of peace, poesis and wilderness through essays, articles, poetry and podcasting. You can learn more about her work here.


  1. Wilow
    Nov 9, 2015

    Are you high?

    • Alison Leigh Lilly
      Nov 9, 2015

      I can see why you would think that, since clearly this joke went way over your head. ;)

      • Beth
        Nov 9, 2015

        I thought it was intelligent, thought provoking and down right funny

      • Natalie Gray
        Nov 9, 2015

        Really good. I smiled a lot! Oh, those Christians cups! Thank goodness they didn’t make them green! I’m sure that means something.

      • Karen
        Nov 10, 2015

        Brilliant reparte’
        anyone that reads a lot will get the gist right away. I am only mentioning it because it is doubly funny to me as the birthday for this WITCH is December 25th.
        I have an absolute riot with my birthday as they have totally ruined it in the secular world. From July onward I am bombarded by Xmas garbage. I do love to play with people’s heads about it all.
        Pip, pip and hooray for humor.

      • Eryn
        Nov 10, 2015

        I can honestly say this was a brilliant satiric piece, and for a while actually led me on to believe you were serious. But… then I realized “what witch would actually say this stuff in their right mind?”
        It made me laugh. Well done on this amazing article!

    • Andreea Oana Bobaru
      Nov 12, 2015

      Oh thanks GODDESS, I thought you were serious for a moment! I kept looking for the sentence where you would explain you were just mocking the Christian extremists!

    • Shanta
      Dec 11, 2015

      Very thought provoking and uplifting. Well thought through and well said. Thank you

  2. Mae Theodorakos
    Nov 9, 2015

    I love this. Thank you for the smile.

  3. Magnus
    Nov 9, 2015

    You are now my favorite person I’ve never heard of before.

  4. Joseph Keller
    Nov 9, 2015

    It is possible to see either Pagan or Christian connotation in just about everything. And your story does indeed hold merit. Nonetheless I will state again. It is simply a cup. I went to Starbucks today and bought a drink. And when they asked my name is simply stated I wanted happy yule written on it. Which while misspelled, was done with no reservation. (Although one lady in the back did kinda give me a less than happy look). So we can see what we want to see. And we can make a conscious choice to either be offended, or simply move on and strive to live our lives. To work to better ourselves, our families, and others who need aid not just during the holiday season. But all year round. If we strive to make the world a better place for all and refuse to be drawn in by silly controversy over inanimate objects. We will find our lives filled with love, joy, and contentment. Knowing we did our best to make the world as a whole a better place for all regardless of religious viewpoints. Compassion and love is a human trait not a religious one. Just saying.

    • Alison Leigh Lilly
      Nov 9, 2015

      Well said! :) I hope my writing can make people giggle and lighten up: today, that’s how I’m trying to make the world a better place. Thanks for your perspective and your compassion, Joseph!

    • janet crenshaw
      Nov 10, 2015

      about that misspelling…. has anyone else noticed that in all the pictures of “protest cups” Merry Christmas is always spelled correctly? I CRY SHENANIGANS! Any baristas worth their foam would write “Mary Krismuss” on those red cups. I believe those holiday greetings were written after the fact

    • Lisa McKay
      Nov 11, 2015

      I also see both Pagan and Christian symbols on the cups. I say, bring your own reusable cup…or next time, say your name is Krampus.

  5. Barbara Daca
    Nov 9, 2015

    Lol I told everyone they are Red Tent cups because everytime we bleed, we go to Starbucks!bwahahahaha!

    • Karen
      Nov 10, 2015

      OOOOO…. that is really a good one.
      Made me grin from ear to ear.

  6. Raine
    Nov 9, 2015

    Oh thank Luna!
    I’m glad people still joke over how much every thing gets over analysed.
    Thank you, after reading how some hard core Christians are griping over Starbucks’ cups, this made my day.

  7. GDR
    Nov 9, 2015

    I lift my (brewed at home) cup of steaming java for the Monday chuckle!

  8. Carolyn
    Nov 9, 2015

    Love it! Yes, I can see the humor, but truthfully if there was a way to make pagan Sabbats honored on traditional calendars, I would be in bliss. As a writer, pagan, artist, witch and mother who is raising her son in my faith, I will purposely be taking him out of school during OUR celebrations and making them fully aware as to why.

  9. Katy
    Nov 9, 2015

    Is it possible that it is JUST a red cup? me? I would tell them my name is Bast, not many will understand but those that do will get a giggle.

    • Jesse
      Nov 10, 2015

      Only if your barista is Kvothe

    • Jennifer
      Nov 10, 2015

      Bast or better know as bastet is the Egyptian Cat goddess to those who don’t know or care to know there are other “gods & goddesses” other then the Christian God

      Hail bastet
      Im her Forever follower and child

  10. Kelly Varner
    Nov 9, 2015

    You rocketh! We who are about to consume caffeine from red cups salute you!

  11. Jhenah Telyndru
    Nov 9, 2015

    Brilliant satire! Well done!

  12. Aisling
    Nov 9, 2015

    Brilliant! Gave me a much needed laugh today. :)

  13. Katie
    Nov 9, 2015

    Made me giggle..lol.

  14. Hank biddle
    Nov 9, 2015

    This is so amazing, I have no words. Be my new best friend lol

  15. Missy
    Nov 9, 2015

    I don’t think we should read too much into Starbucks’ choice of symbolism. I think our focus should remain on what seems to be the real shift going on right now. The evolution of love. To me, the evolution of love is acceptance and tolerance of people regardless of their actions, who they love, what they sell, etc. Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. People will eventually realize the label of different religions keeps us divided. We will soon rise above all of the labels that separate us and stand united as a global family. The best advice I have is turn the other cheek if you don’t like what you see. Re-focus on what interests you and the people you love. It takes a lot of energy to hate. You’ll notice you have more physical energy to work with if you quit wasting time on critiquing others. Live and let live folks. Life is easy when you allow it to be!

  16. Jessica
    Nov 9, 2015

    This is probably the best response yet! LMAO

  17. tim
    Nov 9, 2015

    The Starbucks Logo is a 2 tailed Mermaid, supposedly a representation of a siren from greek mythology

    • diondega
      Nov 9, 2015

      i agree that it is a two-tailed mermaid. i think she is a depiction of the Sheena Na Gig. she is the sailors’ dream, the mermaid that one can copulate with because of her split tail. she holds her ankles up and apart in welcome.

    • DrkFlame
      Nov 10, 2015

      The logo is a representation of a Siren that has morphed over the years Starbucks has been in business. Alas, it is the Siren call of the goddess Caffina that rules my mornings!!

  18. George R. Gifford
    Nov 9, 2015

    Brilliant comeback! I was thinking the same thing when I heard the “Christian” response of silliness regarding the cup change.

  19. Elyse
    Nov 9, 2015

    All I can say is WELL DONE! That is so funny. Thank you for a good laugh. Well I guess I that is not all I can say after all.

  20. Wendy
    Nov 9, 2015

    This is awesome!! Shared on my FB.

  21. Solaris Moon
    Nov 9, 2015

    I love this! Can I make you my new patron Goddess? LMAO!!

  22. Anna
    Nov 9, 2015

    This satire is as delicious as grande salted caramel mochaccino! Well done! LOLZ

  23. Keith
    Nov 9, 2015

    A beautifully satirical comeback to the outrage machine’s latest offerings. Thank you.

  24. Sharon
    Nov 9, 2015

    Well…yeah, I mean, isn’t that all obvious to EVERYone?? ;)

  25. Shoebutton
    Nov 9, 2015

    The most delicious satire on the web. You should tweet it to #starbucksredcup to spread the fun around

  26. Heron
    Nov 9, 2015

    You won the internet today…and you might have broken it, too. I hope this goes wildly viral. I certainly shared it all the places! So, so, satirically brilliant.

  27. Veronica
    Nov 9, 2015

    Well said! This annual war on Yule must end. It is far past time for people to be reminded that the tilt of the earth on its axis is the reason for the season.

  28. Gio
    Nov 9, 2015

    I love you <3

  29. Chris
    Nov 10, 2015

    Thank you for giving me a good hearty belly laugh :-) Blessed be x

  30. Megan
    Nov 10, 2015

    This was hilarious, thanks so much for making me laugh!

  31. S.A. Gunn
    Nov 10, 2015

    I mentioned something about the hub-bub surrounding this cup thing on my facebook page. I stated that maybe, just maybe Christians should start acting a little more Christian with their “forgiveness” and “Brotherly Love” and remember that there are other religions out there that celebrate at this time of year, I even stated dates of other said religious Holidays. So maybe they should ya know, NOT be offended when a company wants to “embrace the simplicity and quietness of season.”
    (and since I live in America I also threw in there that we had a right and FREEDOM to practice any religion free of Persecution)
    The more I love nature, the more I dislike people. *SMH*

  32. Lauralee
    Nov 10, 2015

    Well done!

  33. Kristen
    Nov 10, 2015

    LOLOLOLOLOL!!! Great satire piece! I needed this laugh in lieu of all the CUProar going on. Keep Krampus in Christmas as well! He certainly deserves a spot for all of the bratty kids yelling for iPhones. Made my day! Thank you!

  34. Pitch313
    Nov 10, 2015

    How come Christian propagandists never complained about Beer Pong?

    And a tip o’ the hat to your dead-eye analysis of red cups!!!

  35. aaron
    Nov 10, 2015

    Matthew 6:5/6:6
    “And when you pray, you must not be
    like hypocrites. For they love to stand
    and pray in the street corners, so that they
    may be seen by others;
    But when you pray, go into your room
    and shut the door and pray to your
    Father who is in secret. And your father who sees in secret will reward you.” Thank You.

  36. Kimberlysomer
    Nov 10, 2015

    Actually. Just to let you know. It’s a mermaid on the cup. Look it up. I’d a pagan symbol for sure.
    Here are some links:
    https://www.quora.com/Why-does-the-Starbucks-mermaid-logo-have-two-tails http://www.gotmedieval.com/2010/08/the-other-starbucks-mermaid-cover-up.html

  37. Stephanie Fairbanks
    Nov 10, 2015

    Uh… It’s not a scarf.

    Therefore, it’s kind of perfect, if you ask me.


  38. Kirk Ellsworth
    Nov 10, 2015

    You forgot the black, bitter contents, which represents sin, which is then contained within the blood of Christ, till it is all gone. ;-)

  39. D. Jenkins
    Nov 10, 2015

    Had me going for a moment there. Well done.

  40. Nancy
    Nov 10, 2015

    OMG, that was hilarious! Thank you for the giggles.

  41. Diana Sinclair
    Nov 10, 2015

    This is HILARIOUS! You must be my long-lost secret sister…you think like I do. keep up the good work!

  42. Robin
    Nov 10, 2015

    Hahahaha – This is brilliant and not just because I pretty much had the same satirical conversation with a friend earlier today :-). As one of the other commenters said above – you are now my favorite person that I never heard of. I look forward to hearing more!!!

  43. Christian Brunner
    Nov 10, 2015

    This is where all MY cups are, I was looking for them all over the place…

  44. Lisa
    Nov 11, 2015

    This wins The Internet today! Thanks for the laugh. I especially love how people take this so seriously

  45. Karen
    Nov 11, 2015

    As a Christian Pastor who is flummoxed by this non-issue– thank you for posting the FUNNIEST take on this!! I’d share this, but someone would probably be insulted and miss the point. On the other hand, Jesus is probably enjoying your blog, so I’ll share it anyway!

    • Alison Leigh Lilly
      Nov 11, 2015

      This might be my all-time favorite response to this post, Karen! :) The idea of Jesus enjoying my blog makes me all smiles inside. Thank you!

  46. Theresa
    Nov 11, 2015

    Love it :) right after the video was released with that guy ckmplianing about the cups me and he hubby got some lattes and I wrote blessed Yule on mine and tweeted it lol

  47. Rae
    Nov 12, 2015

    I. Love. This.

    Thank you for the satire. Your execution is perfect. <3

  48. DeAnna
    Nov 12, 2015

    Brilliant satire, worthy of The Onion! :-D


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