What is Sweetest Day? Is it kind of second Valentine's Day or was it really designated as a charity event? Why is its history so unclear and full of controversies? When is Sweetest Day anyway?
Truth Behind The Sweetest Day
Let's make it clear from very beginning. Sweetest Day was never real holiday. It was never recognized on national or even international level, like many similar holidays are. Many believe it is just one of so-called Hallmark's Holidays and to large extent they are right. If we dig a bit into its history, presented on the web, we can easily find noble aims of this holiday from initial start, but, just like almost everything else, it became widely commercialized. Now it really looks like just another opportunity to sell more candies, flowers and greeting cards.
If we can believe established web sites, it started as an idea by Herbert Birch Kingston, employer of candy company in Cleveland, who wanted to do something nice and sweet (!) by distributing boxes of candy and small gifts to the old folk, orphans, less fortunate, underprivileged and people confined to their homes. This supposedly happened on October 8, 1921 or 1922 and is very likely not true at all. Soon other Clevelanders started to participate in this kind act and new tradition was born.
Documents, which are available and verified, clearly show somehow different start of this holiday. Archive of Cleveland Plain Dealer on October 1922 reported on the meeting of twelve men, representatives of twelve companies producing candy. The chairman of this committee was C. C Hartzell and as the article shows, the sole purpose of the meeting was establishing new holiday which will help to sell more candy.
They were well organized and knew how to propagate it. The day was at first named The Sweetest Day of the Year and it was set on Saturday in October. Saturday is great day for pampering and October has much more friendly weather than February, when St. Valentine resides. It is also conveniently set between Father's Day in June and Christmas in December.
They started with huge media support from very beginning. first with an article, written by New York's Commissioner of Health Royal S. Copeland M.D., who later became U. S. Senator). The title of the article had for today's standards pretty questionable title: "Eat Candy As Part Of Meal And Be Happy", and the content was written in the same tone: love of sweets is inborn instinct, cravings should be satisfied, Mother Nature is just showing us what our bodies need, eating candy is best for your health, and so on and on.
This expert's opinion should, of course, be backed by setting an example. Thousands and thousand of boxes of candy were distributed to poor people, but this act of kindness was also not left to randomness. Candy makers included some of the biggest movie stars of those days, to get as much publicity as they could.
Ann Pennington, silent movie star, distributed five thousand boxes of candy to the poor at The Ohio Theater and more than two thousand boxes to newsboys, who spread the word all across the city. Theda Bara, another movie star, gave away candy to all visitors at the local theater with her movie playing and after that about ten thousand additional boxes of candy to patients in Cleveland hospitals.
Candy was also given at churches, local charies, parks and other public places, where the publicity was the biggest.
We can find all kinds of rumors on the origin of Sweetest Day on the web. It is obvious the role of Herbert Birch Kingston was not the same as so many articles would like to present. Even if did something before the committee of candy makers was formed, he could not participate at official start of he holiday, because according to census, he didn't even live in Ohio in 1920!
There is another rumor about inventing the holiday in 1982 by Hallmark. They may be active at popularizing at it, but as we could already see, the Sweetest Day of the Year was already alive six decades before. And although a Hallmark as a major greeting cards maker definitely made some profit with this celebration (the sell more than 150 card designed for his day only), we should not neglect the possible role of American Greetings with 180 different cards made for this occasion. By the way, American Greetings has a seat at Brooklyn, Ohio, just next to Cleveland, where everything started.
Another thing to think about is if it wouldn't be more reasonable to give food instead of candy, if the original intention was to make a difference to poor and forgotten?
Some say it is a holiday for men, renamed it Sweeties Day, when women should give small gifts to their husbands and boyfriends, but this is certainly not in the original spirit of the holiday, with an idea to cheer especially people without friends.
You will also find many articles claiming how the Sweetest Day started as an answer to the crisis cause by The Great Depression. Great Depression started in 1930, almost ten years after the first Sweetest Day of the Year (original name) was introduced to the public. There were of course other attempts to make it more recognizable.
There were several occasions when candy makers tried to expand the idea in New York City, once as the declaration of Candy Day, then as in 1927 as the invention of Sweetest Week and later (1937) as an attempt to put the Sweetest Day on the same level as already nationwide established Mother's Day, Father's Day and Valentine's Day.
It never worked as candy makers liked to, but in some cities it is still a good day for business. Cleveland, Chicago, Buffalo and Detroit are the biggest Sweetest Day cities. It's pretty popular all around the Big Lakes. It is also becoming more and more popular in California, Florida and Texas, as financially very important regions.
Another reason for optimism among confectioner retailers is the fact young people seem to like the idea of this holiday more than their parents, so it probably has brighter future. In the regions where Sweetest Day caught on there are themed dinners and dances organized and flowers, candy and small gifts given. Not only to poor and forgotten, but to all friends, associates, relatives, just about everybody, who you would like to bring a smile on the face.
Despite the holiday's controversial history, we can always do something sweet for each other. And a nice word or a hug can tell even more than a box of candy of Happy Sweetest Day card. so if you still want to know when is Sweetest Day, remember it's always on third Saturday in October, and in 2015 it falls on October 17.