This Is What Starbucks Holiday Cups Look Like For 2021

Figuring out exactly when the Christmas season begins depends entirely on where you are, and how excited you are for the holiday season to come around. For Europeans, Christmas kicks off four Sundays before Christmas Eve, which falls on December 24 (via Travel Triangle). For some Americans, it begins after Thanksgiving, which is celebrated on November 25 this year (via Brandwatch). But to others, it begins after Halloween — which is about the time when Starbucks unveils its lineup of cheery red holiday cups. 

Starbucks tells Mashed that this year's cups will make their debut in the United States on November 4. They will come in four different designs. "Wrapping paper" will feature geometric patterns, sparkles and glitter. "Holiday lights" features sparkling lights and a ribbon swirl with "STARBUCKS" spelled out in bold letters. "Ribbon" features strips of color dancing across the cups against a sea of twinkling stars, and "candy cane" is inspired by the holiday sweet treat with Starbucks' distinctive wordmark written around the cup. All the designs feature pops of green, white, and lilac against the traditional distinctive red background. And if you're in love with this year's designs, Starbucks suggests you head over to the nearest coffee house to pick up a free reusable holiday cup when you order a holiday drink. The offer is valid in the U.S. only and is available to customers who order Starbucks' Christmas flavors at the café, via drive-thru, or curbside. 

A tradition since 1997

The Starbucks holiday cup tradition began in 1997 with a cup featuring a hand-drawn holly-and-coffee-bean design against a magenta background. "It was August, and I had just started with the company. We were working on holiday creative for the season to come. We had what felt like a hundred cup designs pinned up on the wall," recalled former Starbucks creative designer Sandy Nelson. "Then Howard [Schultz] came by, looked at all of them, and picked my design. I couldn't believe mine was chosen" (via Starbucks Stories).

It wasn't until 1999, two years after the original Christmas cup, that Starbucks would settle on the bright red that has come to be its signature holiday hue. "I remember it all started when the creative director asked us, 'What is holiday red? Is it burgundy? Is it more of a ruby color," said creative design manager Jon Cannell. "We brought in all these holiday items in a range of reds, and we landed on a red that we all agreed on." It was that shade of red, which Cannell described as "joyous," that struck a chord with customers.

But not all Starbucks cups were hits. When the company debuted a simple two-toned red cup in 2015, it became the target of conservative Christian groups who accused them of "removing Christmas" (via Vox). Still, even if you aren't a Starbucks fan, we think the chain deserves a standing ovation for managing to keep its Christmas cup designs fresh and distinctive for more than two decades.