2020 has been fraught with its fair share of bitter pills. But on Oct. 17, people nationwide have an opportunity to acknowledge Sweetest Day.

Not to be confused with Valentine’s Day, Sweetest Day can and often does involve sugary sweets. However, random acts of kindness, expressions of gratitude, romantic gestures and selfless service also define this unofficial holiday, which got its start in the early 1900s and has ebbed and flowed as an identified holiday since.

While Sweetest Day’s foundation centered on confections, it has evolved into a day “full of lessons in persistence, resilience and doing small things greatly,” according to nationaldaycalendar.com.

Recognizing Sweetest Day can take a variety of forms and involve everything from offering a compliment to a stranger to baking a pan of brownies or a batch of cookies for a loved one, to taking meals to people in need. Other ideas include:

• Personalized gifts with messages or photos
• DIY or special-order baskets that might include candies, soaps, candles, skincare products, kitchen gadgets or foods
• Chocolate-dipped strawberries or dried fruit, such as orange slices or pineapple
• Massages, facials and other spa treatments — free at-home or at a licensed facility

However, expressing sweetness does not have to involve confections or gifts. Salt Lake City-based Independence University shared in August several ways to show compassion to others — on Sweetest Day or any day. They include volunteering, advocating, listening and encouraging.  

Jewish Family Service of Denver in July identified heightened volunteer needs, especially as a result of the pandemic:

• Donate food or time to a pantry.
• Write or send flowers to someone in a nursing facility.
• Assist at a mental health crisis center.
• Provide basic supplies or groceries to a neighbor or someone deemed lonely or in need.

And, finally, the greatest Sweetest Day gift may just be time: a date night, a picnic, a walk in a park, a drive through the countryside, a bike ride, kayaking and more.