The Sweetest Day

Kids, this one combines some of Aunt Mary’s favorite things: clever marketing campaigns, early nutrition ideas, candy and a splash of altruism. Let’s go!

I’ve heard of Sweetest Day my whole life. I remember our local ABC affiliate used to run a Happy Sweetest Day message during commercial breaks when I was a kid. I always thought it was a pale cousin to Valentine’s Day, cooked up to get folks to spend money or feel the pain of an angry spouse.

It’s not! Well, not exactly…

“The Sweetest Day of the Year” was  created by Cleveland candy mogul and philanthropist Herbert Birch Kingston and was first celebrated in 1921. Herb promoted the day as a way to show care for the less fortunate by giving them small boxes of candy. This would not only spread the love, but it would provide badly needed “food energy” from the sugar.  Numerous contemporary celebrities gathered in Cleveland that year to pass out boxes of sweets to orphans, widows and newsboys. Aw, that’s nice!

Here and orphan, or newsboy, or orphan enjoys candy
Here an orphan, or newsboy, or widow enjoys candy

Quickly the tables turned and the next year Sweetest Day was endorsed by Cleveland candy manufactures as a way to get in good with the missus.

Forget the orphans. Show your lady some love instead.

Folks were also encouraged to give treats and small presents to friends and neighbors as a way to slow down and engage with those around you. Still nice…

Despite national marketing campaigns, Sweetest Day never spread farther than the Midwest. I live in the Midwest and I actually heard it advertised yesterday in a radio spot for a grocery store. Sweetest Day may just be the Little Engine that Could of D-list holidays, chugging along for over 90 years now in the form of ragged flower bouquets, and half-hearted candy displays. I say we try to restore it to its original altruistic purpose, though I’m not sure how to approach the widows or where to even find a newsboy.


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