Starbucks Red Holiday Cups Through the Years

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is just around the corner and red cup day 2022 will be here before you know it! Soon it will be winter and the holidays will be behind us.

For more than twenty years, Starbucks has celebrated the season with holiday cups.

Here’s a glimpse into red cup history and every single Starbucks red cup since 1997.

The first was in 1997, and today, those initial holiday cups are hard to find—few were saved (who knew the impact they’d have?), electronic design files were lost (a 2001 earthquake), and it was not yet common to take food/coffee selfies (the word “selfie” wasn’t even in use until the early 2000s.)

20 Years of Starbucks Red Cups
Twenty years of Starbucks Red Cup Designs: 1997 through 2017

In August 1997, designer Sandy Nelson was new to the company, and the holiday cup design was one of her first assignments with the company:

“We had what felt like a hundred cup designs pinned up on the wall. Then Howard [Schultz, then Starbucks CEO] came by, looked at them, and picked my design. I couldn’t believe mine was chosen.”

Starbucks First Holiday Cups

We think of red Starbucks holidays cups, but the first cups came in four jewel-toned colors (magenta, sapphire, emerald, and amethyst), with a design of swirls, holly leaves, and coffee beans.

Starbucks 1997 Holiday Cup Design
1997 Starbucks First Holiday Cup Design

First Starbucks Red Cups

The red we know and love/hate came in 1999 and featured snowflakes, stockings, and other holiday images. That year, Jon Cannell, a member of the design team, called the candy-apple red “joyous” and said that “it really resonated with customers.”

In 2000, the Gingerbread Latte made its first appearance with the red-and-brown-kraft-paper “Coffeetown” holiday cups.


Starbucks Coffeetown Cups 2000
2000 Starbucks “Coffeetown” Holiday Cup

The next decade would feature cups that looked like a gift, with green and red ribbon; cups with whimsical holiday line art, a style that would come back in several years’ designs; cups with many snowflakes; cups with illustrations resembling paper silhouettes in traditional holiday settings; and cups with cozy knit-sweater backgrounds.

In 2010, cups began to have a more modern look to the designs. 2013 featured a touch of gold on the red cup, and 2014’s cups had bold brushstrokes and colors.

In 2011, Starbucks Cup Magic, an augmented reality app that made the scenes on the cup, came to life.

The Starbucks Red Cup Christmas Controversy

And then there was 2015: the red cup that waged a “war on Christmas” was actually a poppy-and-cranberry-colored ombré.

Christian internet evangelist Joshua Feuerstein’s video went viral, and other conservatives also took up the cause.

Starbucks responded by affirming “a culture of belonging, inclusion, and diversity” as one of the company’s core values.


2015 The War on Christmas Controversy Starbucks Red Cup
2015 The War on Christmas Starbucks Red Cup

The year 2016 featured 13 designs by women from six different countries, all in white-on-red color schemes, and expressing “the shared spirit of the holidays as told by our customers.”

(There was controversy right before these came out: on November 1, right around the time the holiday cups are introduced, there was an uproar when stores began using a green cup with a “mosaic of more than a hundred people drawn in one continuous stroke”—a limited-edition cup symbolizing community and unity that came out right before the 2016 US election.)

The actual holiday cups came out shortly after.


2016 Limited Edition Holiday Cup
2016 Starbucks Limited Edition Holiday Cup

And then there was 2017 and another controversy, though much more muted this time: the cup included a drawing of a pair of hands connecting, and the genders were not clear, to which a BuzzFeed article asked a question already popping up on social media:

“Definitely gay, right?”

(Color-wise, the cup was a break from sixteen years of red backgrounds: it featured black line drawings, including a Christmas tree and presents and ornaments, on a white background with splashes of red and green—it was intended as an interactive cup customers could draw on.)


2017 Starbucks Hands Holding Cup
2017 Starbucks Hands Holding Holiday Cup

Another controversy popped up in 2018, but this time it was unrelated to the design—the lineup included a free reusable red cup with a 50-cent discount on drinks during certain hours of the day throughout the holiday season.

(For the holiday designs, an all-red cup was back, along with a few other designs, including another all-green one.)

The cup was available for one day only, and most locations ran out early in the day.

2018 50 Cent Discount Cup
2018 Starbucks 50 Cent Discount Holiday Cup

Starbucks Red Cups 2019

2019 included another reusable cup and simple, cheerful designs.

2019 Starbucks Reusable Holiday Cups
2019 Starbucks Holiday Cups

2020 Starbucks Holiday Cups

2020 was a year like no other. Orders could be made in the café, drive-through, or curbside pickup, with mobile orders rising.

Starbucks again offered a reusable cup with discounts, and the holiday lineup featured more traditional yet whimsical designs.

2020 Starbucks Reusable Cups
2020 Starbucks Holiday Cups

2021 Starbucks Holiday Cups

Last year, Starbucks is brought back their iconic holiday cups with shimmering ribbons and festive colors that were perfect for the season! Every cup also came with a gift tag on it so you could share some extra Starbucks cheer.

Starbucks Free Reusable Holiday Cups 2022

Countdown to Starbucks Red Cups 2022

This year, Starbucks is bringing back their festive red cups.

We’ll update this post when we have more information about about the new Starbucks red cups expected in 2022.

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