Proverbs 14:15 MSG
Today, 98 years after the first Sweetest Day was established, most people who celebrate it do so by buying candy for their sweethearts.
But that's about 100 miles from the reason the holiday was first celebrated.
Several years ago, I did some research into the real history of this strange holiday. There are lots of version of the story but they all seem to boil down to this: Sweetest Day was born in 1921 at the initiative of a Cleveland candy factory employee named Herbert Birch Kingston who, one cold, rainy October day, took notice of the newsboy hawking newspapers on the corner he passed every day. The boy was cold and wet and miserable so Kingston invited him to come in and get warm and he offered the boy a small box of chocolates to enjoy as he did. So genuine was the lad's gratitude that Kingston came up with the idea of giving candy to newsboys all over Cleveland.
He submitted his suggestion to a group of factory employees who established a 12 person committee to organize the event but they decided to broaden the charity to include all street people, shut-in's, nursing home residents, and the poor. They said that such charity would make that day the Sweetest Day of the Year and that's what they would call it.
Other candy makers were recruited to join in the effort and the following October (1922}, about 20,000 small boxes of candy were distributed, free, to steet people, nursing home residents, and others unable to buy candy for themselves.
The Cleveland Plaindealer picked up the story. Other major papers in the Great Lakes area (Ohio, Indiana, Wisconcin, Michigan, Pennsylvania) followed suit and, within a few years the charitable holiday had become regional as it, largely, is today.
Unfortunately, in most cases the charitable aspect has been lost and the holiday has become, a lesser, secondary Valentine's Day.
So, go ahead and buy your sweetheart a box of candy on Sweetest Day but why not remember the original reason for the season, purchase one of those big bags of Halloween candy you see at the store, and drop it off at your local food pantry or soup kitchen, okay? It will make somebody's day the Sweetest Day of the Year.
Columbus Day was first celebrated in San Francisco in 1869 to celebrate Italian American heritage. The idea spread across the country with the first statewide celebration in Colorado in 1907. By 1937 it was so widely celebrated that it was made a national holiday. But why?
Some believe that the minor holiday was popularized as a response to the New Orleans lynching of 11 Italian Americans in 1891.
Originally, 19 Italian Americans were indicted for the murder of police chief David Hennessy. After six of them were acquitted at trial on April 14, 1891, a mob stormed the jail, removed 11 of the inmates and hanged them in the public streets, the largest, single mass lynching in American history. Over the next 9 years, another 9 Italian Americans were lynched in New Orleans.
No one was ever brought to trial for any of the lynchings.
Some historians believe that after the New York Times and other national newspapers ran the stories and indignant editorials about the lynchings, a movement to honor Italian American heritage pushed to make Columbus Day a holiday and the idea caught on.
Yet another lesson we didn't learn in History class.
Dean Feldmeyer is the author of 5 novels, 4 non-fiction books, three plays, and over 100 essays, articles, poems, and short stories, some of which can be found on this web site.