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What is Sweetest Day?

Many people are familiar with Valentine’s Day, a day traditionally reserved for expressing romantic and familial love, often with chocolates. Sweetest Day is a tradition somewhat similar. Yet it was especially designed to express love and care for those who were routinely neglected by society.

Sweetest Day was the brainchild of Herbert Birch Kingston, who worked for a confectioner company in Cleveland, Ohio. He felt that there were plenty of children, especially orphans and poor kids, who didn’t necessarily get the attention they deserved. Thus in 1922, he inaugurated the first Sweetest Day to give out boxes of candy to mainly underprivileged children.

Since the day picked was the third Saturday in October, this became the traditional time to celebrate Sweetest Day. Among those distributing candy were community activists, several prominent actresses, and of course Kingston. The tradition was so enjoyed that people often looked beyond philanthropy to treating their own friends or family to treats on Sweetest Day.

In the US, Sweetest Day is celebrated primarily in the Northeastern region of the US, still on the third Saturday of October. Yet news of the tradition, which began nearly 100 years ago, has spread to other parts of the country, especially as people who lived in those areas moved elsewhere. People may distribute candy or small gifts to those in convalescent homes, hospitals, foster homes, or mental institutions, and they may also treat friends and family to little gifts from the heart.

In keeping with the original tradition, celebrating Sweetest Day should really be most focused on people who ordinarily don’t have the good fortune of attention from friends or family, either due to difficult family circumstances or to poverty. This can be a great tradition to start if your community doesn’t routinely celebrate the day, and there are many candy manufacturers that are willing to help donate or reduce costs on gifts intended for people in unfortunate circumstances.

Though Thanksgiving is often a time when people are most generous with gifts of food to the poor, Sweetest Day, occurring a month sooner, can get the ball rolling on charitable giving, and remind folks that the less fortunate tend to need assistance year round. Children are often charmed by this holiday, and are excellent at organizing drives to help others. If you have a few kids that are looking for a good community project, helping kids organize Sweetest Days and teaching them about its history is likely to result in avid participation.

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