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FORMAT is for the format string, while OPTION is for options like --date, --reference, etc. Also, date isn't developed by "Linux developers", but by GNU people. Their software is available for other platforms as well.
Did you look at the documentation for date? This is covered there. From the bottom of the man page:
A date string may contain items indicating calendar date, time of day, time zone, day of week, relative time, relative date, and numbers. ... The date string format is more complex than is easily documented here but is fully described in the info documentation.
The "SEE ALSO" section tells you how to get to the info page. Once there, you want to look at the section "Date input formats".