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Jewish World Review
Oct. 9, 2009
/ 21 Tishrei 5770
Another Troublemaking Holiday
Beware guys, October 17th is just around the corner. So what is October 17th, you might ask? Well, that is the day that men must ply their girl friends and wives (or both, in some cases) with candy and flowers and sentimental cards proclaiming undying love and gratitude. I know what you're thinking; you're thinking that Valentine's Day doesn't rear its ugly head until February. Crosby is off the beam again, loopy, crackers, meshugga. Doesn't he own a calendar? What the heck is he talking about? Well, if you all are through insulting me, I'll tell you!
No, October 17th is not the new date for St. Valentine's Day, it is yet ANOTHER holiday called "Sweetest Day." I'm not kidding. I wouldn't joke about a thing like this. You haven't heard of this one before? Unless you're from Cleveland, or nearby, you probably never have. Okay, gather 'round and I'll elucidate you all over the place.
Sweetest Day takes place on the 3rd Saturday of October and originated in Cleveland in 1922. Today it is celebrated primarily in the Great Lakes region and some parts of the Northeast United States (although evildoers would love to see it expanded throughout the entire country). There are two schools of thought on the motive behind the creation of this "holiday."
First there's the story of the benevolent, kindly old candy maker, Herbert Birch Kingston, a philanthropist and candy company employee who simply wanted to bring happiness into the lives of orphans, shut-ins and others who were forgotten. With the help of friends, he began to distribute candy and small gifts to the underprivileged. (Sob!) Sweetest Day 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."
The Cleveland Plain Dealer instructed Clevelanders on reasons why they should observe "Sweetest Day" in 1922. Here is the actual editorial (keep your Kleenex handy):
"Love is always the dominant motif in a successful life. Most of us have love in our hearts, but too often it remains there, never manifesting itself before those who inspire it. Perhaps the business of living in this day and age when every moment requires energy and exertion, precludes the constant exhibition of sentiment. There are those of us who have mothers and fathers back in the little home town--or here in Cleveland for that matter. Life itself would not be too much of a sacrifice in their behalf if necessary, yet how few times do we really show that we care. And remember your glorious courtship when all the world seemed in tune. Years will never dim the sacred memory of those golden days. Your wife remembers the hundreds of little attentions you showered upon her then. Little things perhaps, but maybe she sighs to herself every once in a while, and yearns--and hopes. The Sweetest Day in the year came into being because the founders recognized the eternal tendency of men and women to become so engaged in the rush and whirl of life, and to forget the finer, more appealing things. On this day, next Saturday, steal enough time from the turmoil of routine affairs, to bring a bit of good cheer to those you love. A present, perhaps, and more than that add a loving word--a smile--a kiss. This life we lead is but a segment in the eternal order of things. Too soon we find ourselves out of the running, living on memories of days gone by. Build yourself a heritage for that time. The Sweetest day is worthy of our attention. Regard it's observance as a sacred duty--and a rare opportunity. J.L.S."
Then there are the hardboiled cynics that refer to this as nothing more than a concocted promotion created by the candy industry solely to increase sales of candy. Of course this idea is ridiculous. Sweetest day was not created solely to increase sales of candy. It was created to also increase sales of flowers, greeting cards and jewelry.
Actually the first Sweetest Day was planned by a committee of 12 confectioners chaired by candymaker C. C. Hartzell. They were hoping the promotion would spread, but it never became as widely accepted as they had planned. Several attempts throughout the years were made to extend a "Sweetest Day" in New York and across the country.
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. In 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.
I warn you, the powers that be are trying their hardest to have Sweetest Day spread to the four corners of the globe. And as time goes on, it is gradually spreading to other areas of the country. People tend to take the Sweetest Day tradition with them when they move. Ohio is the top state for Sweetest Day sales, followed by Michigan and Illinois. Texas, California and Florida are among the top 10 states in sales.
My own personal opinion is that this is all a part of a vast woman conspiracy to, once again, dragoon men through guilt, intimidation and blackmail into yet another day of romantic gift giving. And Heaven help the man who doesn't participate. Hold on to your wallets, men. Sweetest Day is coming to get you.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.
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© 2008, Greg Crosby