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.
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.