When Starbucks released its cranberry-red and forest-green holiday cups in 2015, void of snowflakes or anything reminiscent of Christmas, Michigan State junior Arianna Dickason wasn’t a part of the outrage that ensued. To her, the blank canvas didn’t wage a “War on Christmas” that many politicians and holiday enthusiasts claimed. Instead, she considered it a nod toward inclusivity, drank her coffee and moved on.
Two years and a re-installment of festive Starbucks cups later, President Donald Trump has declared a victory on his vow to end the “War on Christmas.” The Trump family’s official holiday card reads: “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” with the hashtag #WHChristmas. The holiday press preview unveiled the White House adorned with massive trees and a red, green and gold color scheme. For many, Trump had fulfilled his “Merry Christmas” campaign promises.
For Dickason, the holiday efforts felt as inflated as the controversy over decorated coffee cups.
“I understand and respect traditions,” Dickason said. “But it’s really ridiculous that there’s now a push to celebrate the holiday in this exclusive way.”
The “War on Christmas” however has been a debate that predates Trump’s presidential campaign and is more closely tied to the argument of whether or not the United States identifies as secular. Early discussion of the war stems from conservative talk radio hosts who accused the swapping of “Merry Christmas” for “Happy Holidays” to stifle Christianity.
Businesses like Starbucks have opted for more inclusive approaches to the season, ditching the use of religious symbols and phrases for images that promote diversity.
MSU Chemical Engineering Senior Maria Allen believes the shift is reflective of the commerciality of the holiday and the need to make consumers comfortable.
“You can’t make everyone happy,” Allen said. “Christmas is a holiday based on religion, but has grown to also be a very commercial holiday. It seems almost as a free choice to choose if you want to make Christmas religious or not, and businesses have to be inclusive to be profitable.”
Many have regarded the “War on Christmas” to be another divisive tool that becomes relevant whenever issues of immigration, partisanship, race and the economy arise.
“It’s harder to control people with an open mind,” said Loren Jones, Michigan State kinesiology senior. “People who are open-minded are more willing to be inclusive, and I think the ‘War on Christmas’ was just invented as a dumb means of control and to make people feel isolated.”