Saturday, October 17, 2009

What is the History Behind... Sweetest Day

You always here those people, especially men, get upset about having to buy flowers, cards, or gifts for some random holiday. They usually end up saying that this holiday was "created by the card and candy companies just to sell more stuff." There are some truths to those rumors when it comes to Sweetest Day.

On October 8, 1921, in Cleveland, Ohio, people celebrated Sweestest Day for the first time. The origins of the holiday are debated by people in the area. Many attribute the holiday to a candy company employee named Herbert Birch Kingston. His idea was to give out candy and chocolate to those less fortunate in order to brighten up their day. On that first Sweetest Day it is exactly what happened. Various candy companies in the area contribute to the effort of passing out candy boxes to those less fortunate around the city. Big time Hollywood stars at the time, Ann Pennington and Theda Bara, came to Cleveland and handed out out over 12,000 boxes of candy to newsboys, orphans, and widows, they even arrived at a local Hospital to pass out boxes of chocolates there. The idea was for this day to be set aside as "The Sweetest Day in the Year."

In the following year an editorial was published in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer on October 8, 1922 with the intention of promoting the upcoming Sweetest Day on October 14th. The editorial was a single page which stated:

"Love is always the dominant motif in a successful life. Most of us have love in our hearts, but too often it remains there, never manifesting itself before those who inspire it. Perhaps the business of living in this day and age when every moment requires energy and exertion, precludes the constant exhibition of sentiment. There are those of us who have mothers and fathers back in the little home town--or here in Cleveland for that matter. Life itself would not be too much of a sacrifice in their behalf if necessary, yet how few times do we really show that we care. And remember your glorious courtship when all the world seemed in tune. Years will never dim the sacred memory of those golden days. Your wife remembers the hundreds of little attentions you showered upon her then. Little things perhaps, but maybe she sighs to herself every once in a while, and yearns--and hopes. The Sweetest Day in the year came into being because the founders recognized the eternal tendency of men and women to become so engaged in the rush and whirl of life, and to forget the finer, more appealing things. On this day, next Saturday, steal enough time from the turmoil of routine affairs, to bring a bit of good cheer to those you love. A present, perhaps, and more than that add a loving word--a smile--a kiss. This life we lead is but a segment in the eternal order of things. Too soon we find ourselves out of the running, living on memories of days gone by. Build yourself a heritage for that time. The Sweetest day is worthy of our attention. Regard it's observance as a sacred duty--and a rare opportunity. J.L.S."

In addition to the editorial a reporter for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Bill Lubinger, chronicled how the first Sweetest Day came about. His story indicated how the holiday was created by a committee known as 'The Sweetest Day in the Year Committee'. The group consisted of twelve candymakers and manufactures chaired by C.C. Hartzell. Led by Hartzell they helped organize the entire event, brought in the Hollywood stars and pushed for the holiday to continue the following year on October 14, 1922. You can see from the editorial above that Sweetest Day, within just a year, took on a different meaning. What started out as a way to brighten the lives of those less fortunate had now evolved into showing affection or sweetness to all those around you.

Attempts were actually made to spread Sweetest Day around the country. The first objective for the Committee was to take it to New York City. In October 1927, The New York Times reported that the powers that be had named a week "Sweetest Week." In 1937, the New York Times reported that the National Confectioners Association is trying to rank Sweetest Day on the same level with Mother's Day and Valentine's Day. And finally in 1940, the 'Sweetest Day in the Year Committee' passed out over 10,000 boxes of candy to local charities around the city. These attempts to spread the holiday to New York aided in making it a holiday that is celebrated by some today.

Today Sweetest Day has never been able to elevate itself to the same level as Valentine's Day or Mother's Day. It is still celebrated however by mainly people in the Great Lakes region. For the most part the majority of the country has never heard of Sweetest Day or does not recognize it as a holiday they celebrate. Based on sales of Sweetest Day cards and gifts the most popular cities which celebrate this holiday are Cleveland, Detroit, and Buffalo. Growing up in Indiana I had never heard of it until I was 26 years old and even then I thought it was a joke. Despite the lack of widespread popularity Hallmark produces nearly 150 Sweetest Day cards with many stores in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois advertising gift baskets and flower arrangements for that special someone. I would say that whether you have celebrated this holiday or never heard of it, it is a great reason to make the gesture for your sweetheart or significant other and show them how much you care.

So to my wife I want to say: Happy Sweetest Day!!!


  1. Thank you for the history

  2. I enjoyed the research... thank you!

  3. I was born and raised near Detroit. My family always celebrated Sweetest Day. We moved to Florida when I was 15. No one had never heard of it there! In high school I had actually been made fun of for making up such a holiday. I am now back up north in Minnesota, and I have come across a few people who do recognize sweetest day as a holiday. I have several children that I have passed this holiday down to, and it's always a sweet day for them!


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