The “Sweetest” day holiday is a Midwestern tradition and is celebrated on the third Saturday of every October, which means it is being celebrated today, October 14, as I write this. It is mostly celebrated in the Great Lakes region and the Northeast, but it is starting to spread, gradually, to the rest of the country. Still, Ohio is the main state for observance of the holiday, followed by Michigan and Illinois. How did this holiday begin and why is it celebrated?
Observance of the Sweetest day originated in Cleveland in 1922. It was begun by a candy company employee named Herbert Birch Kingston. He wanted to bring a little sunshine into the lives of people like orphans, or those who were home-bound, or otherwise underprivileged or ignored. He got together with some friends and began to distribute candy and other small gifts to these people that he thought deserved a little happiness.
One of the people who helped was a movie start named Ann Pennington. She gave out 2,200 boxes of candy to Cleveland newspaper boys. It was a thank you for their service to the people of Cleveland. Theda Bara, another movie star, also gave out candy: 10,000 boxes of it to patients in Cleveland hospitals. Also, she gave candy to everyone who came and watched her new movie in a local theater. It became an annual tradition from that year forward.
As people who had grown up celebrating the Sweetest Day began to move out of the area, they took the tradition with them. Now, states as far-flung as Texas, California, and Florida have increased sales of sweets on this day. However, the holiday has evolved and has become more like a liberal Valentine’s day, where sweet treats and other gifts are given to express not only romantic love but the appreciation of friends and family.