Along with flowers and jewelry, chocolate is a staple of Valentine’s Day gifts. Although chocolate and chocolate products are popular all year round and also have a special place in holidays like Halloween, Christmas, and Easter, there is a different component to Valentine’s Day chocolate: romance. Rather than being shaped like Christmas trees or rabbits or ghosts, the majority of Valentine’s candy is shaped like a heart (or packaged in a heart shape) to show love and affection. British candy manufacturer Cadbury is believed to be the first company to sell chocolates in a heart-shaped box for Valentine’s Day when they thought of the idea in the 1860s. This boosted both the sale of chocolates and the overall profile of Valentine’s Day. However, the connection between chocolate and Valentine’s Day goes back further than this.
Chocolate originated as something very different in Central America. There, cacao trees produced fruit that looked like a coconut shell but in an egg-shaped. Inside this shell was a group of cacao beans. These beans were roasted by the Aztecs and then ground into a thick paste. The paste was combined with hot water to produce a foamy and rich drink. This beverage was very different from the hot chocolate that we today drink – it was robust and bitter rather than sweet. Often, some ingredients like vanilla bean or honey were added to the mix for flavor.
This drink played a part in some Aztec ceremonies such as marriage. It was believed to have many health-aiding properties. At the same time, these beans were very valuable and most people could not afford to have this cacao drink. The beans were sometimes used as currency and, for a time, were considered more valuable than gold. Because of its worth, the cacao beans were sometimes given as gifts at a wedding. The Aztecs also believed the cacao beans had aphrodisiac powers and aided fertility, which gradually transformed the cacao into a symbol of romance and love.
As explorers from Europe visited “The New World” and brought back the beans and the related solid substance called chocolate, both became popular in Europe, though the recipe was changed to make it sweeter. Chocolate became a fashionable gift for many occasions, and Cadbury’s smart marketing maneuver in the 19th century increased the connection between Valentine’s Day and chocolate, one that has only strengthened in the past 150 years. Today, some estimates say that around 60 million pounds of chocolate are sold near Valentine’s Day, with sales of around $1 billion dollars. So enjoy your chocolates this February 14th, whether they are gift from a loved one or yourself, because they have a compelling tradition dating back hundreds of years.
If Chocolate is not your thing, please take a look at our great selection of Sterling Silver Gifts that can be personalized with a special love message from you.