Sweetest Day is an observance celebrated primarily in the Great Lakes region and parts of the Northeast United States on the third Saturday in October. It is described by Retail Confectioners International as an "occasion which offers all of us an opportunity to remember not only the sick, aged and orphaned, but also friends, relatives and associates whose helpfulness and kindness we have enjoyed." Sweetest Day has also been referred to as a "concocted promotion created by the candy industry solely to increase sales of candy.
The origin of Sweetest Day is frequently attributed to candy company employee Herbert Birch Kingston as an act of philanthropy. However, Bill Lubinger, a reporter for The Plain Dealer, contends that "Dozens of Cleveland's top candy makers concocted the promotion 84 years ago and it stuck, although it never became as widely accepted as hoped. The Cleveland Plain Dealer's October 8, 1921 edition, which chronicles the first Sweetest Day in Cleveland, 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. The Sweetest Day in the Year Committee was assisted in the distribution of candy by some of the biggest movie stars of the day including Theda Bara and Ann Pennington.
There were also several attempts to start a "Sweetest Day" in New York City, including a declaration of a Candy Day throughout the United States by candy manufacturers on October 8, 1922. In 1927, The New York Times reported that "the powers that determine the nomenclature of the weeks of October" decreed that the week beginning on October 10, 1927 would be known as Sweetest Week. On September 25, 1937, The New York Times reported under Advertising News and Notes that The National Confectioners Association had launched a "movement throughout the candy industry" to rank Sweetest Day with the nationally accepted Mother's Day, Father's Day, and St. Valentine's Day. In 1940, another Sweetest Day was proclaimed on October 19. The promotional event was marked by the distribution of more than 10,000 boxes of candy by the Sweetest Day Committee. The candy was distributed among 26 local charities. 225 children were given candy in the chapel at the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children on October 17, 1940. 600 boxes of candy were also delivered to the presidents of the Jewish, Protestant and Catholic Big Sister groups of New York.
Sweetest Day now largely involves giving small presents such as greeting cards, candy, and flowers to loved ones. While it is not as large or widely observed as Valentine's Day, it is still celebrated in parts of the United States, despite persistent allegations of being a "Hallmark holiday."
Retail Confectioners International describes it as "much more important for candymakers in some regions than in others (Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo being the biggest Sweetest Day cities)". In 2006, Hallmark marketed 151 greeting card designs for Sweetest Day. American Greetings marketed 178.