'Tis the season

Starbucks is the mega-hip neighborhood pusher to caffeine addicts. Myself, I’m more of a Dunkin’ Donuts kind of guy — cheap coffee with jelly-stuffed “munchkins” on the side served by a high school kid. As opposed to venti café latte with a gluten-free tasteless something on the side served by a high school kid. But he’s called a barista. O Pretense, where is thy sting?

Even in Hoosier Land, you get that effete feel when you wander into Starbucks.

You might have heard about the claim that Starbucks is the latest Grinch attacking Christmas. An evangelical’s video went viral, charging that the new seasonal coffee cups at Starbucks were an affront and that baristas were forbidden to wish customers “Merry Christmas!” The cups are kind of an off-red red with the mermaid corporate logo. The evangelist apparently expected more of holiday imagery — snowflakes? Santa? Christmas trees?

And when he wasn’t offered a hearty “Merry Christmas!” he wrote that greeting as his name on the cup, thus tricking his barista into shouting out the offensive words when his coffee was ready the next time. Ho-ho-ho.

I’m obviously not a fan, so I was eager to jump on the anti-Starbucks bandwagon. Especially after I heard one of the flacks for Starbucks defending the seasonal nondescript cups by saying: “This year we wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories.” That kind of mushy nonsense makes my tree-top glisten.

So the day after Halloween — which used to be All Saints Day but is now the launch of Commercial Christmas — I ventured into our local Starbucks to test the anti-Christmas waters.

It just wasn’t so. Acceptable seasonal decorations were in place. Right inside the door was a display of pricey, over-sized “Advent calendars” with appropriate Starbucks gifts included. There were a variety of Starbucks seasonal gift certificates offered — including those with the allegedly banned “Merry Christmas” wish.

The female barista told me to come back in a few days when the special holiday coffee will be available. Something about pumpkin-flavor, I think, which sounded terribly awful. It’s true that she didn’t offer me a “Merry Christmas!” but I didn’t ask for one considering it was four weeks before Thanksgiving.

Frankly, Starbucks seemed right in line with commercial America, exploiting Christmas as much as possible to sell their stuff.

I should make it clear here and now that while a lot of good people have a problem with that commercial exploitation of Christmas, I do not. I really believe that the 24-hours of Christmas songs on the radio and jingling bells on the street corners are all an unintended evangelization.

Everyone knows the reason for the hoopla. Behind all the cheap gee-gaws of plastic reindeers and ugly sweaters is a manger. Christmas is the Nativity scene. So I figure, let them have at it. Every commercial Christmas rip-off is a subtle reminder of that truth.

I think it plays particularly on nonpracticing Catholics. They are nudged into remembering the warmth of a Catholic childhood on Christmas Eve, or a midnight Mass from decades back. The manger is in the background, even in the dopiest commercial Christmas rip-off. And while I don’t suggest an Advent calendar from Starbucks to keep track of the days, smile at all the commercial Christmas nonsense of the weeks leading up to the celebration of the Nativity. You never know. It just might be the first step in welcoming back a lost soul.

Have a holy, happy, joyful and peaceful Christmas.

Robert P. Lockwood writes from Indiana.