Tears and Laughter: A blank canvas, and a cup full of memories

Starbucks, over the past 18 years, has become closely associated with the holiday season. Last year when its 2014 Christmas cup was introduced, a picture of it was shared on Instagram every 14 seconds for the first 48 hours after its release.

The theme was “Let there be bright.” Trees and starbursts were collaged in wispy brushstrokes against the classic red background. It was designed, like all the other years, to capture the brilliance of the holiday season.

This year, the artists at Starbucks were evidently out of ideas. The caffeine must not be working for them causing their creativity to be low because as of November 1, they have released the equivalent of a small red Solo cup.

It’s just a two-toned red cup.

Starbucks released a statement explaining that they are embracing the quietness of the season. The simple design was intentional and is meant to act as a blank canvas. It was inspired by customers sitting around drawing their own designs on the cups.

I want to know where these people are that have time to draw on their coffee cups. Where are they, and what do they do for a living? But Starbucks is hoping the plain red cup will encourage everyone to remember and share their holiday stories.

In the past, themes for the cups have included “Pass the cheer” and “It only happens once a year.” Designs have ranged from a simple tiny string of lights around the rim to snowflakes blowing across the sky to deer grazing and ornaments hanging and more ornaments. One year there were big snowmen caroling and the next year there were even bigger snowmen winking, but this year, we have nothing. Just a blank cup. “Minimalistic,” Starbucks said.

There has been strong pushback against the new cups. Boycotts have been threatened and an Internet evangelist, Joshua Feuerstein, posted on his Facebook page, “Starbucks hates Jesus.”

That may be taking it a touch too far. Starbucks doesn’t hate Jesus, and coffee addicts probably aren’t going to be able to boycott long. At the same time, a lot of people do not have time to doodle a panoramic Christmas scene or write a scripture on their coffee cup in the mornings.

Some customers may just need the caffeine, but others still want the feeling. They want the ribbons and bows and the partridge in the pear tree. They want to wrap their hands around the cup and feel the warmth of their Grandma’s hearth.

They want to be reminded of the Star of Bethlehem. They want blinking lights and flying reindeer and glitter. They want angels and miracles. They want the promise of a better new year ahead, and touches from the past. They want to see strings of popcorn and cranberries for the same reasons families tell the same worn-out stories year after year, just to keep someone’s spirit near.

It is a silly thing really, to associate a red cup with Christmas, as if somehow by holding it we can go back – over the hills and through the years – finding memories that stay in our hearts like pictures.

A blank canvas… It just may work.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.