This year, Sweetest Day falls on October 19. If you’re not in the midwest, you probably don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. But I think everyone needs to celebrate the holiday.
Sweetest Day was originated in Detroit just over a century ago, primarily as a promotion for local candy companies. After a brief suspension of the day during World War I (due to sugar rationing), the celebration became an official one, celebrated on the third Saturday of October, by the late 1920s.
A couple of weeks ago, I spent a good hour shuttling between three different northern California stores looking for Sweetest Day cards for my two daughters. Ever since they were little, I have sent them cards for every holiday that crosses my mind.
Not just their birthdays and Christmas, but every holiday — Memorial Day. Labor Day. Arbor Day. Bastille Day! (I studied French in high school and college.) It’s become our “thing” over the years.
That shopping day a few weeks ago, I was shocked to find not a single Sweetest Day card at my local Walgreens or Target. When the cute, pimply faced millennial working at the Hallmark store looked at me curiously and said “I don’t know what Sweetest Day is, sir,” — “SIR?” — I yanked my iPhone out of my pocket and Google’d “Sweetest Day” in an exaggerated fit of pre-geriatric rage.
As it turns out, the young man’s lack of knowledge was more than justified. Standing in that Hallmark store, I learned that Sweetest Day is an exclusively Midwestern holiday.
I was gobsmacked. My family always celebrated it when I was growing up in Detroit, and I’d thought EVERYBODY did. My dad bought my mom a card and a gift for Sweetest Day every year, and I verbally sparred with my mom almost every year about why I was the only one of her four children who never gave her a card.
Well, I may have given her something one or two years when I was cajoled into it by an errant elementary school teacher or one of my siblings, but giving Mom a Sweetest Day card or gift was against my better judgement and somehow felt a bit…creepy. Mom was great, but she wasn’t my “sweetest,’ I boldly replied to her every year.
(For the record, I never gave her a Valentine’s Day card, either. I was saving all of that for people with whom I’d engage on a much more personal level than I ever did with Mom.).
Despite my somewhat rocky start to celebrating Sweetest Day, I now have a very personal connection to the holiday. 19 years ago on Sweetest Day, I’d just met my husband, Rob, a few days before. I’d been on the air all afternoon at the radio station I was working at, and was exhausted.
When I got home from work that evening, there was a single white peony (a flower I’d told him reminded me of my mom) in front of my door, with a note that I framed and have displayed in my home:
“I know that neither of us knows what will happen between us,” Rob wrote, “but I do know one thing: you are the most amazing thing that has happened to me in a long time.”
Sweet, huh? That right there is the definition of sweet! “My Michael?” C’mon now! 19 years later, he’s still one of the sweetest people I know.
Pardon the pun, but some of Sweetest Days’ sweetest promotions have encouraged people to “give a gift to someone who needs a reminder of the sweetness in the world.”
With everything going on in the world today — CNN has become almost unwatchable, for me — I think we could all use a reminder about the sweetness that’s still in the world.
So, to hell with that “it’s only a midwestern holiday” stuff. Let’s send a strong message to that kid in the Hallmark store! If I can migrate from Michigan, so can Sweetest Day!
Whether you’re in a romantic relationship or not, remind someone today, October 19, of how sweet they are — and use #NationalSweetestDay as a hashtag on social media.
And if you bump into Rob anytime soon, tell him that he rocked it 19 years ago.