The First Candy Day, 1916
October brings cooler days, longer nights, and Halloween, the biggest candy day of the year (at least in my book).
But one hundred years ago, there was no such thing as “trick or treating.” For girls, Halloween was a night of genteel parties with apple bobbing and fortune tellers. And for boys it was the chance to turn hooligan for the night, to the consternation of property owners and upright citizens. But candy? Not so much.
Some time in 1916, the candy people looked at their empty fall calendars and decided what America needed was a new candy holiday, a day to celebrate all things candy, to eat candy with extra enthusiasm, and not coincidentally, to give candy sales a boost in advance of the Christmas holiday season. So the word went forth from the National Confectioners Association: The second Saturday of October would henceforth be known as Candy Day.
Candy Day, the day when every man, woman and child in this country will be urged to forget minor affairs for the time being and see to it that someone is sent a box or bag or bucket of candy.
In anticipation of October 14, 1916, the candy trade journals beat the drum to encourage local candy shops to feature Candy Day promotions. Sample signs were published, as well as “articles” that could be sent to local papers extolling the festivities of Candy Day and the virtues of candy eating.
The true “Candy Day” spirit is apart from the idea of just stimulating a greater consumption of candy. This will naturally follow a national educational campaign exploiting the real food value of candy–pure candy. The “Spirit of Candy Day” proper may be interpreted as a spirit of good will, appreciation and good fellowship.
The sentiments were noble. But behind the scenes, the intentions were no secret.
The only motive of the [NCA Executive Committee] is to aid every Manufacturer, Jobber and Retailer in increasing his profits through increased sales on “Candy Day.”
It’s simply asking you if you want to make some extra money, and if you do, you are requested to go ahead and push this “Candy Day” idea.
Unfortunately, the holiday was short-lived. Candy Day had been a mixed success. Candy shops that used the promotional materials had good sales, and customers seemed happy with another occasion to enjoy the sweet stuff. In late 1916 hopes were high that with the proper promotion, Candy Day would takes its place alongside the more widely recognized holidays. But Candy Day 1917, meant to be celebrated on October 13, had to be canceled. Something else came up. A little distraction we know today as “World War I.”
There is more to the story. Efforts were made to revive Candy Day after the war, but it never really caught on. Candy Day was reinvented as “Sweetest Day” in Cleveland in 1921, and that did have a little more success, but that is another story (I’ll write about that one soon).
Of course, today we DO have a “Candy Day” in October. We just call it something else. We call it HALLOWEEN!
P.S. Look on your calendar; the second Saturday in October is tomorrow. Happy Candy Day!
Sources: “Nation Wide Candy Day,” Candy and Ice Cream July 1916, p. 34; “Candy Day,” International Confectioner June 1916, p. 39; (NT: Candy Day results) International Confectioner Nov. 1916, p. 41