Cleveland, Ohio sits proudly on the south shore of Lake Erie but has long been considered one of the least desirable locales in America. Shuttered steel mills, miserable weather, and a floundering economy don’t paint a pretty picture. But Cleveland does have an upside. It hosts the iconic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Hundreds of thousands flock to its international film festival. And the Cleveland Browns – long the doormat of professional football – just completed their first winning season in over a decade. Alas, music, movies, and sports don’t erase mistakes… not when a city lays claim to a “holiday” called Sweetest Day.
Tape a big round target to my computer monitor and hand me a bazooka, because I’m about to blow the Sweetest Day bullseye into bits you’ll need a microscope to see. The redeeming qualities of this celebration amount to little more than sweet nothings. I mean, how bad is it when your holiday is not only labeled a “Hallmark”, but popular opinion says it’s the worst of that lot?
A Hallmark Holiday. By definition it’s a celebration with no more substance than a push to buy a greeting card. Boss’s Day (Oct. 16th). Administrative Professionals’ Day (April 27th). Teacher Appreciation Day (May 3rd). There’s even Clergy Appreciation Day (Oct. 10th). Sweetest Day lands at the very bottom of this feathery-light pile. Please, can we just leave it buried there?
It wasn’t always this way with Sweetest Day. Wait… YES IT WAS. Did you know we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the original Sweetest Day last Saturday? But I’m getting ahead of myself. The better question I should ask: Do you even know why we celebrate Sweetest Day?
No, I don’t celebrate Sweetest Day, but many of you in the “Great Lakes Region” do (eight midwestern U.S. states plus the Canadian province of Ontario). For the rest of us, here’s the debatably sincere back story. In 1921, twelve Cleveland candy company executives pooled their surplus product and gave away 20,000 boxes of candy “to newsboys, orphans, old folks, and the poor”, and literally manufactured a holiday in the process. In the hundred years since, Sweetest Day has morphed from free candy for strangers to “… a day to share romantic deeds or expressions and acts of charity or kindness.” With all due respect Cleveland, why do we need a “holiday” for romance or charity?
When I first learned about Sweetest Day all I could come up with was Valentine’s Day 2.0. I mean, how convenient, right? We have the big day of romance in February so why not a little one (a really little one) in October? Defenders of Sweetest Day say the two celebrations aren’t anything alike. I agree. Valentine’s Day was a Christian feast day designated over 2,500 years ago and celebrated throughout the world today. Sweetest Day was a gimmick designed to sell candy (and cards) exactly 100 years ago and celebrated throughout… the Great Lakes Region.
Several failed attempts were made over the years to solidify Sweetest Day on the October calendar. In 1922 the name was changed to “Candy Day” to see if it would generate more buzz (nope). In 1927 they tried to make it Sweetest Week (nope again). And in 1937, to make it more nationally accepted, they tried to advertise Sweetest Day on par with Mother’s, Father’s, and Valentine’s Day (this effort sponsored by, drum roll please… the National Confectioner’s Association).
None of this spinning of wheels stood in Hallmark’s way. The greeting card company produces over 150 designs for Sweetest Day. American Greetings joined the card party to make another 180. Can you blame them when so many Great Lakes Region people are willing to buy?
All of my bazooka-blasting brings me to a fitting conclusion concerning Wikipedia (where I often find reference material). Every Wikipedia article gets a rating of “quality” and another of “importance”, using a scale not so different from the one you had in grade school. Wikipedia’s article on Sweetest Day – published seventeen years ago – gets a quality rating of, uh… has not yet received, and an importance rating of, uh… has not yet received. In other words, nobody at Wikipedia cares enough to even rate the article.
Here’s an idea. How about we just delete the Wikipedia article? (as one employee proposed two years after it was published). For that matter, how about we just delete Sweetest Day? I have my bazooka at the ready.
Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.