If you’ve ever been on the receiving or giving end of a beautiful heart-shaped box of chocolates around Valentine’s Day, you may have wondered why. Year after year of seeing and enjoying chocolate for Valentine’s Day begs the question why do we eat, and give, chocolates as a way to celebrate and show love?
An excellent question to be sure, and to help answer it, let’s go on a quick historical field trip.
How Chocolate and Valentine’s Day Became a Historical Affair
Chocolate as an Aphrodisiac
Chocolate has long been touted as an aphrodisiac, which is in part how it eventually comes to be associated with Valentine’s Day. Some of the earliest indications of people considering cocoa as such were the ancient Aztecs. The ancient Mayans of Central America are purported to be the first to discover cocoa, potentially around 900 a.d., according to the iconic chocolatiers Godiva. The Mayans held cocoa beans in such high esteem they deemed it a “food of the Gods.” Eventually, the Aztecs conquered the Mayans and forced them to pay taxes in the form of Cocoa beans. It is said the Aztec king Montezuma drank 50 cups of cocoa a day, and an extra one when he was going to meet a lady friend. Due to its stimulating effects, the Aztec women were not allowed to drink it.
Chocolate Became Quite the Trend
It wasn’t until the 1600s when chocolate began to become a trend in mainstream European society. Chocolate houses began popping up, which were similar in concept to the idea of a coffee house a nice meeting place for social gatherings.
The Amorous French
In the mid to late 1600s, it was said mass amounts of chocolate were being consumed throughout the court at Versailles. Though it’s only a rumor, it’s been purported that Madame du Barry, the official mistress of King Louis XV of France at one point, used chocolate mixed with amber to excite her lovers.
Chaucer – The Link Between Valentine’s Day and Romance
St. Valentine’s Day had nothing, originally, to do with love. In fact, it was a rather bloody, sordid, and ultimately confusing event. What we do know is that Roman Emperor Claudius II had two men executed, on separate occasions, named Valentine on February 14, and the Catholic church honored their martyrdom by dedicated a St. Valentine’s Day. Skipping ahead to 1382 when Geoffrey Chaucer, the iconic English poet, links romantic love to St. Valentine’s Day in his poem Parlement of Foules.
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A Few Centuries of Romantic Valentine’s Day Pre-Chocolate
Essentially, from the time of Chaucer’s poem in 1382 through the 1800s, Valentine’s Day became increasingly popular to celebrate and was done so with roses, songs, and poetry.
Alas, in Waltzes Richard Cadbury
Richard Cadbury, not the first Cadbury associated with chocolate, his family began the Cadbury business in the early 1800s, but it wasn’t until Richard Cadbury that Valentine’s chocolate became a thing. Richard Cadbury was searching for a way to use the pure cocoa butter that was a result of the process to make cocoa drinks at the time. He invented “eating chocolates,” which he then arranged himself in beautiful hand-crafted boxes. With a knack for marketing, Richard began decorating, now, heart-shaped boxes with cupids and rosebuds (circa 1861). One thing led to another, and the rest is history. Literally.
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