Why Chocolate on Valentine’s Day?

Whilst Valentine’s Day has a long history stretching back many centuries, the symbolism of gifting chocolate is a much more recent development. Is it simply good marketing from the chocolate manufactures or is it because chocolate really does have aphrodisiac qualities?

Chocolate for Valentine’s Day: a heart-shaped history

Chocolate for Valentine’s DayIn the medieval period Valentine’s Day became known as a day to celebrate romance. The first mention of this is in the writings of Chaucer in 1382, with writings about illicit but chaste courtly love. Around this time the stories of knights giving roses to fair maidens, and singling songs to celebrate their beauty from afar became more commonplace.

By the 1840s, much of the world had accepted Valentine’s day as a celebration of love. Around this time, Richard Cadbury from the chocolate manufacturing dynasty, was working in the sales department of the firm. Cadbury had recently found a technique to make drinking chocolate more palatable than most Britons had ever tasted. The new process left a lot of cocoa butter, which Cadbury used to broaden their range of eating chocolate. To push sales, Richard designed some decoration for boxes for these new chocolates and in 1861 the company began selling chocolates in heart-shaped boxes.

Keeping the Valentine’s Day chocolate tradition alive

Couples are expected to spend almost GBP 1 billion on Valentine’s Day in 2018, with about GBP 50 million to be spent on chocolate. The estimated average adult spend on Valentine’s Day is estimated to be around GBP43, with men spending more than women.

The Aztec’s considered chocolate to be “food of the gods” and that perception remains in modern society. Chocolate was usually in liquid form and cacao beans were prized, luxury items among the Mayan and Aztec elite, with beans as valuable a commodity as gold. Always considered a luxury and an indulgence, chocolate has been used for centuries as a gift of appreciation. Now more accessible, chocolate has become more associated with romantic gestures with more than 90 per cent of Britons hoping to receive chocolate on Valentine’s day.

Celebrating Valentine’s Day with a box of chocolates

valentines day chocolate box giftChocolate first became popular in Europe in the 1600s. Chocolate houses began to rival coffee houses as social meeting points in London, even suggesting that the hot drink could both prevent or cure a myriad of diseases.

In France in 1770, after Marie Antoinette had married Louis XVI, she brought her personal chocolate maker to Versailles, who created recipes that mixed chocolate with orchid bulb, orange blossom or sweet almond milk with the aim of healing a range of physical ailments. It took until the mid nineteenth century before chocolate was firmly connected to Valentine’s day.

The Victorians knew to use chocolate to seduce a woman. Etiquette books and chocolate advertisers suggested that an exchange of chocolates between a man and a woman was the equivalent to a declaration of love. The higher priced products were also said to show the recipient the depth of emotion of the person giving the gift, with cheaper chocolates suggesting more superficial feelings. This meant that single ladies were warned not to accept chocolates from men unless they were related to or engaged to them.
purple rose and earrings
In the early days of cinema, chocolate symbolised seduction, with actresses lounging on a bed on a heart-shaped pillow, and suggestively nibbling through a giant box of chocolates. Television advertising campaigns have also suggested that many chocolate products are a suitable way of conveying heartfelt sentiments of love and intimacy. Between 1968 and 2003, Cadbury’s Milk Tray man skied, scuba dived and abseiled around exotic locations so that he could deliver a box of chocolates to a lady never fully seen, with the catchphrase: “All because the lady loves Milk Tray.” It was one of the most successful advertising campaigns, even though he never stayed around once the chocolates were delivered.

Chocolate has not yet been proven to be an aphrodisiac, but the generally held belief that it is an aphrodisiac has been reinforced by manufacturers, as can be seen in the adverts for the chocolate Flake bar. Yet a chocolate bar or a box of cheap chocolates for the local garage are not the gift that will create a good impression on Valentine’s Day.

Chocolatier Valentine’s Day gifts

There are master chocolatiers in Britain from whom you can order online some of the best chocolates available, supplying unusual chocolate flavour combinations to choose from that your Valentine can enjoy. These flavours include dark chocolate with rose, chilli, basil and Persian lime, even tobacco. There are also some amazing intoxicating liqueur chocolates, or ask a chocolatier to design a creation to your specification.

Luxury chocolates can also be enjoyed by those whose diets are dairy free or vegan. That’s why chocolate makes Valentine’s Day.