History Of Sweetest Day


History Of Sweetest Day

Sweetest Day officially began more than 80 years ago, when a Cleveland man, feeling his city’s orphans and shut-ins too often Happy-Sweetest-Dayfelt neglected, conceived of the idea of showing them they were indeed remembered. He did this with sweets and other small gifts, distributed with the help of friends and neighbors on the third Saturday in October.

On the first Sweetest Day in 1921, movie star Anne Pennington supplied more than 2,000 Cleveland newspaper boys with boxes of candy as a token of gratitude for the service they were providing to the public. Later, another then popular movie star, Theda Bara, reportedly gave 10,000 boxes of candy to people confined in hospitals and those who came to the local theater where her movie was playing.

Kindness caught on. Over time, the idea of spreading cheer to the underprivileged was broadened to include others, and the occasion grew to embrace a weeklong period of giving. Although still primarily a regional holiday, Sweetest Day is widely recognized throughout much of the Midwest and Northeast, as well as Texas, Florida, and several other states. In recent decades, the holiday has taken on a decidedly romantic tone, celebrated as a sort of “Autumn Valentine’s,” with flowers, candies, and cards exchanged happily by millions of spouses, sweethearts, and close friends. Have they all been duped?

Critics claim Sweetest Day was created merely to boost revenues of candy and greeting card companies. They point out that the holiday’s founder, Herbert Birch Kingston, was an employee of a candy company, and a committee of twelve confectioners reportedly helped plan and contribute to the first event in 1921. In his book, Consumer Rites: The Buying and Selling of American Holidays, Leigh Eric Schmidt asserts that Sweetest Day may have been a later incarnation of a previously failed Candy Day holiday. The critics may be right — at least in part.

No doubt, the first Sweetest day was originally inspired by both philanthropy and commerce. Local candy companies generously gave to those who had fallen on hard times. At the same time, they understandably hoped to promote their products. Few can find fault with their actions or motives. Fewer still can ignore the continued popularity of Sweetest Day more than 80 years later.

Regardless of its origins, Sweetest Day has long since taken on a life and meaning of its own, appealing to the thoughtfulness and romance in all of us. It crosses the boundaries of race, religion, politics, and age. It reminds all of us to think of others. It offers a heartwarming break in the otherwise dreary month of October. And, it’s a purely American, regional tradition made all the more special to many because of its lack of national media hype.

Did Sweetest Day originate out of true kindness, clever public relations, or some combination of both? You decide. Fortunately, it’s underlying purpose remains — to reach out to those too often unappreciated with a sweet gesture of love. Perhaps that’s why it has stood the test of time.

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