Sweetest Day

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Sweetest Day

Type of Holiday: Promotional
Date of Observation: Third Saturday in October
Where Celebrated: United States, particularly Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin
Symbols and Customs: Candy, Cards, Flowers
Related Holidays: Valentine's Day


Many people assume that Sweetest Day originated fairly recently with retailers who were interested in promoting the sale of cards and gifts. But the day was actually created in 1922 by Herbert Birch Kingston, a philanthropist in Cleveland, Ohio. Kingston worked for a local candy maker, and he wanted to brighten the lives of those who were isolated, lonely, or without family. He chose a Saturday in October to distribute candy and other small gifts to hospitals, nursing homes, and orphanages in the Cleveland area.

Kingston's idea soon caught on, and the practice of setting aside a day for remembering special people with a thoughtful gesture grew in popularity. Within a few years the third Saturday of October was designated as Sweetest Day in the city of Cleveland. The day's name was chosen as a reference to the gifts of candy and other sweets that were commonly distributed on that day.

Although Sweetest Day is slowly spreading throughout the U.S., the day is most often observed in the upper Midwest and northeastern regions of the U.S., particularly in the cities of Buffalo, New York; Chicago, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; and Detroit, Michigan. The typical Sweetest Day gifts are CANDY , FLOWERS , and CARDS . Sweetest Day is sometimes regarded as a second VALENTINE'S DAY; however, where Valentine's Day usually focuses on appreciation of a romantic partner, any special person can be acknowledged on Sweetest Day.



Gifts of candy have been a part of Sweetest Day since the first observances of the holiday. In early Sweetest Day celebrations, celebrities and public figures often arranged for the delivery of thousands of boxes of chocolates to individuals in the Cleveland area. One film actress paid for the distribution of candy to hospital patients and also to everyone who came to see her movies, while another sent treats to all the newsboys in the city in thanks for their service to the community.


Sweetest Day cards have been given alone or with gifts for many years. The tradition became commercialized in the 1960s when greeting card companies began offering Sweetest Day cards for sale. Over the years, demand for Sweetest Day cards has increased significantly-approximately fifty different card designs were offered by one company in 2000, increasing to more than 150 in 2006.


Flowers have become another popular Sweetest Day gift, particularly for loved ones, although special platonic or family relationships may also be acknowledged with flowers on Sweetest Day.


Henderson, Helene, ed. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2005.


Holiday Symbols and Customs, 4th ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2009

Sweetest Day

Third Saturday in October
More than 40 years ago, a man from Cleveland came up with the idea of showing the city's orphans and shut-ins that they hadn't been forgotten by distributing small gifts to them on a Saturday in October. Over the years, other Clevelanders took up the idea of spreading cheer not only to the underprivileged but to everyone. The celebration of what came to be called Sweetest Day soon spread to Detroit and other American cities.
This holiday is unusual in that it is not based on any one group's religious beliefs or on a family relationship. Because it falls midway between Father's Day and Christmas, however, it has come to be regarded as a merchandising opportunity. Although it is still supposed to be an occasion to remember others with a kind act, a word of encouragement, or a long-overdue letter, local merchants in cities where Sweetest Day is observed usually get together and promote the day as a time to purchase gifts.
AnnivHol-2000, p. 182
HolSymbols-2009, p. 927
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.