by Eryn Moris

Ah yes, October in the Midwest! When the stereotypical male focuses his spare energy on football and the stereotypical female focuses hers on fall fashion. Unfortunately, should these two happen to be dating, around the third weekend of the month, their focus often shifts toward one of our modern calendar’s most meaningless holidays. Sweetest Day. An excuse for boyfriends everywhere to waste their money and energy searching either for that “perfect expression of their love” or the perfect pacifier to smoothly pave the way to Christmas. Folks, I’ve done a little research, and you want to know something? The historical significance of the Sweetest Day holiday exists solely within the realm of retail! While your average encyclopedia (and I consulted two, a print version circa 1973 and an electronic version circa 2001) will have a lengthy listing for our calendar’s other lover’s holiday, Valentine’s Day, oddly enough it will make no mention of Sweetest Day or its alleged founder, a man named Herbert Birch Kingston. According to the wonderful wealth of (always accurate) information available on the internet, in 1922, Kingston, a Cleveland native and candy company employee, decided to brighten the day of numerous orphans and shut-ins by distributing small gifts of flowers and sweets. Sound suspiciously similar to your notion of Valentine’s Day? Mine too. In fact, if I recall correctly, some guy named St. Valentine decided to brighten the day of orphans and prison inmates during the second week in February by making them cards to let them know that somebody cared. Right? Wrong!! To my great disappointment, I learned, from the same encyclopedias that made no mention of Sweetest Day or Kingston, that the custom of distributing cards on Valentine’s Day is in no way connected to any of the Christian martyrs for which the holiday is named. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE HAVE BEEN DUPED! Unlike Sweetest Day, Valentine’s Day was derived from the ancient Roman lover’s festival Lupercalia and has been celebrated in the U.S., Canada, Denmark and England since as early as 1466. Sweetest Day, on the other hand, is native only to the Great Lakes region and parts of the Northeast and has only been recognized on our calendars since the mid-70s. And somehow I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the only websites I could find with information on the history of Sweetest Day were linked directly to gift and greeting card companies. So this Sweetest Day, let’s not surrender our hard-earned cash on disposable signs of affection such as cards and flowers and candy. I think that Hallmark and Godiva and FTD, unlike many of the individuals suckered in by their holiday, are probably surviving just fine in our struggling economy. Instead, take the time to show your appreciation to any and everybody you know that has made your life a little sweeter. I guarantee it’s a lot more satisfying than letting Hallmark do it for you. Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 10 – October 2003