It seems almost a given that we’ll give or receive chocolate on Valentine’s Day, and noone’s complaining, but few of us have put the chocolate box down long enough to wonder why. As the shops flood with heart-shaped confectionaries, shelves are lined with everything from the edible to the unspeakable. We began to question why chocolate held such a firm grip on Valentine’s tradition and honestly, it goes way back.
As far back as the 15th century, the Aztecs made important links between love, desire and chocolate. Back in 2006, the New York Times stated that historic emperor Montezuma was known to eat cocoa beans as if they were sweets in order to “fuel his romantic trysts”. It’s already beginning to add up…
Even the Greeks agreed. Chocolate comes from the cocoa tree, which is also known as the Theobromo Cacoa. In Greek, this translates to ‘food for the gods’. We can’t say we disagree.
Each Valentine’s week, we buy over 58 million pounds of chocolate and if we dig a little deeper, it becomes obvious why chocolate is the gift that keeps on giving. Chocolate contains tryptophan and phenylthylamine, two chemicals which affect the brain’s pleasure and reward centres, though there has always been some discussion about their significance within chocolate we think the experience of eating good quality chocolate speaks for itself, a pleasure and a reward by nature!
Historically speaking, the reign of chocolate continued without pause. In Victorian England, chocolate became a common connector to love and the art of seduction. Men were able to demonstrate their taste and expertise when choosing the ‘right’ box for a particular lady friend, much like we would spend time choosing a bottle of wine today. The seductive allure of chocolate was such an acknowledged force, that some Victorian etiquette books go as far as to warn women against accepting chocolate as a gift from anyone they were not engaged to!
At around the same time, Richard Cadbury took the chocolate world by storm, finding a way to make chocolate bars that were delicious and economical. Previously only the elite could treat their loved ones, but suddenly, Cadbury produced chocolate that was available to the masses. Everyone could treat their loved ones to a little luxury. As Cadbury’s popularity steadily grew, his next step was to create beautifully shaped boxes of chocolates, Richard himself designed beautiful illustrations and decorated the boxes with roses and cupid. The boxes were marketed as dual purpose. They were too pretty to dispose of, so once the chocolates were finished, it was suggested that they were used to keep locks of hair and love letters! Adopted as a ‘giftable’ symbol of romance, the chocolate gift exploded in popularity. Cadbury also expanded his offering and is credited as being the first to invent the heart-shaped box of chocolates which would change Valentine’s Day forever for future generations of lovers.
Chocolate is a powerful mood enhancer too. As a sweet, it’s an item most of us associate with childhood. Therefore, it harnesses a powerful nostalgia, a unique trait which allows us to recapture the delight of your first square of milk chocolate as a child. There’s a striking amount of history surrounding chocolate and its significance to the cultural traditions of romantic gift giving. People have been celebrating their significant others with chocolate for centuries and we can’t see that that will change. If you can’t beat them, join them!