It's impossible to navigate virtually any shop in February without seeing displays of pink and red chocolate boxes around every corner. Chocolate has become a standard Valentine's Day gift, right up there with flowers and jewelry, but the treat didn't develop its romantic reputation overnight. It took centuries of myths, marketing, and traditions to write chocolate into Valentine's Day history.
The first people to connect love and chocolate were the Mayans. They started brewing drinks made from cocoa beans around 500 BCE—centuries before the first Feast of St. Valentine. This early hot chocolate was a key part of Mayan wedding rituals. The bride and groom would exchange sips of the hot chocolate during the ceremony.
The Aztecs had a less wholesome view of the ingredient. According to legend, the emperor Montezuma II binged huge quantities of cocoa beans to fuel his romantic affairs. Chocolate does contain small amounts of tryptophan and phenylethylamine, two chemicals associated with feelings love and desire, but scientists say apparently there isn't enough of either substance to make chocolate a strong aphrodisiac.
Stories of chocolate's effects in the bedroom have continued which might explain why confectionary companies embraced the sweet treats when Valentine's Day became popular. Cadbury debuted the first heart-shaped box of chocolates in 1861, and it was an instant success. The package was embellished with cupids and roses. And once the box was empty, it could be used to store keepsakes like love letters and locks of hair.
Cadbury didn't patent the heart-shaped chocolate box, so the rest of the industry started to make similar packaging of their own. It wasn't long before chocolates became synonymous with the newly-commercialised holiday.
Valentine's Day chocolates are exchanged around the world, but they're attached to interesting traditions in some countries. Thanks to a successful marketing campaign, women in Japan have to give "obligation chocolates" to all the men they know on February 14th - wow that sounds like a win, win to us.
Whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or not, it is a great excuse to tell someone you love them whether that be with a card, a text or a gift. If you are giving a gift of chocolate have a look at our vegan-friendly chocolate valentine gifts and our milk chocolate valentine gifts.
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