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Sweetest Day was established in 1922 by A Cleveland, Ohio, candy company employee. He believed that the city’s orphans and shut-ins too often felt forgotten and neglected, so he conceived the idea of showing them that they were remembered. Herbert Birch Kingston and a handful of others who supported his efforts distributed candy and small gifts to show them that someone cared.

Soon other Clevelanders began to participate in the celebration which became known as “Sweetest Day.” Even celebrities got involved. In the early 1930s, movie star Ann Pennington presented 2,200 Cleveland newspaper boys with boxes of candy to express gratitude for their service to the pubic. Another movie star, Theda Bara, gave gandy to those who came to watch her films at the local theater and then distributed 10,000 additional boxes of candy to patients in Cleveland hospitals.

But like all sweet stories, there are those willing to debunk it as a myth. Bill Lubinger, a reporter for The Plain Dealer, contends that “Dozens of Cleveland’s top candy makers concocted the promotion ... and it stuck.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s October 8, 1921 edition states that the first Sweetest Day was planned by a committee of 12 confectioners chaired by candymaker C.C. Hartzell. The Sweetest Day in the Year Committee distributed over 20,000 boxes of candy to “newsboys, orphans, old folks and the poor” in Cleveland Ohio, and was assisted in the distribution of candy by some of the biggest movies stars of the day including Theda Bara and Ann Pennington.

The holiday is celebrated on the third Saturday in October. While it began primarily as a regional observance in the Great Lakes region and the Northeast, Sweetest Day gradually spread across the country. However, Ohio is still the top state for Sweetest Day sales. Hallmark’s first Sweetest Day cards were made in the mid-1960s. Hallmark offers over 150 Sweetest Day cards. Eighty percent have a “love” or “romance” theme.

Sweetest Day gives a person an opportunity to recognize others who are sweet or special. It doesn’t matter who that person is, or what their relationship. They just have to be “sweet” in order to get recognized. It is not based on a single group’s religious sentiment or a family relationship. It simply gives us an opportunity to show others we care.


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