Dear Pope Francis,
A seasonal controversy erupted last week across North America. Starbucks released their traditional seasonal red coffee cups, but this year the cups are solid red. There are a number of vocal people slamming Starbucks for being anti-Christmas because the cups don’t have snowflake and other seasonal designs. Personally, I don’t care what colour the cup is, as long as the contents inside taste good.
There have been lots of responses to these complaints, everything from Ellen DeGeneres devoting one of the monologues on her show to the topic, to social media posts about how this is another example of the disconnect between the first world and the impoverished.
And I agree with these critiques. But this also points to another reality – we don’t know how to wait anymore.
It’s November. Christmas is in approximately six weeks. By the time this is published, the red cups will have been available for about a week. That means that the cups were released before Remembrance Day (or Veteran’s Day if you’re American), or about a week after Halloween. It feels like yesterday it was August and pumpkin spice lattes were back in stock, and now the Christmas drinks are out.
If we can put down the Skinny Peppermint Mocha for just a second, and think about this. Of the next six weeks, we are going to be spending four weeks in Advent, a liturgical season that is all about waiting. We use candles on a wreath to count those weeks, lighting a new candle each week. As the days and weeks progress we watch the candles get shorter, visibly showing us that time is passing. As a kid, I remember Advent feeling like the longest four weeks of the year, but it made Christmas all the better because I had been actively waiting for it to come.
Maybe, for some people, the launch of Christmas cups, drinks, decorations and carols is how they mark the transition to the holiday season, but I see a gradually shifting emphasis. By focusing on things like seasonal cups and Christmas merchandise in the stores, it cheapens the experience of Advent. The anticipation, waiting with baited breath, that are the hallmarks of the season becomes tedious rather than exciting. We’ve already been bombarded with reminders that Christmas is coming, that we need to be frantically waiting and preparing for the perfect holiday. In the onslaught, we miss Advent’s subtle calls, like the different hymns and prayers in the liturgy, the use of the Advent wreath, and the symbolism of the colours.
So in the coming weeks, maybe we can be less concerned about the colour of cups, or even what kind of seasonal drink options there are to put in those cups, and slow down. Focus on the season when it arrives. Rather than skipping it, let’s give Advent the attention it deserves, one of prayerful waiting, counting the weeks as the wax candles burn.
Skipping the seasonal drinks for a few more weeks,