Why Love and Chocolate Go Hand in Hand
February 13, 2017
I think it’s safe to say that you can’t have Valentine’s Day without chocolate. That would be like Thanksgiving without turkey, or Halloween without candy - unthinkable. But have you ever stopped to ask why we give the people we love anatomically incorrect heart shaped boxes filled with chocolates? Or why chocolate is synonymous with love in the first place? The answer is, as with most food history, very ambiguous, but historians and theorists suggest that the relationship between chocolate and love goes as far back as the Aztec empire. In their culture the cacao bean, what chocolate is made from, was associated with the goddess of fertility, Xochiquetzal. Basically, chocolate was seen as an aphrodisiac and was consumed as a drink by the upper classes during wedding ceremonies. I see what they’re getting at, I mean, what’s sexier than a cup of hot cocoa? And when Spaniards took chocolate back to Europe chocolate’s infamy as an aphrodisiac stuck.
But when does Valentine’s Day come in? Not until around 1840 when the Renaissance in Victorian England turned what was previously a religious holiday into a celebration of love. You see, Valentine’s Day was previously a holiday made to memorialize St. Valentine - a priest who was martyred for illegally performing marriages for Roman soldiers under Emperor Claudius’ rule. This holiday was “coincidentally” at the same time as the Pagan festival of Lupercalia which celebrated fertility and feasting in mid-February, which, more likely than not, gave the holiday its association with love. Yet it wasn’t until the humanistic ideologies of the Renaissance, which reconnected Victorian England with love and romance, did Valentine’s Day become what we know it as today - an excuse to smother those you love with gifts, letters (or cards), and, thanks to Richard Cadbury, chocolate.
For those who don’t know, Richard Cadbury was the owner of a large-scale English chocolate manufacturing company and in 1847 had just created a new technique to make drinking chocolate (the only way chocolate was consumed back then) more palatable. The process, however, gave him leftover cacao butter which he used to create new variations of one of mankind’s greatest inventions - eating chocolate. Now armed with a new product, Cadbury wasted no time in marketing to the Victorian love-crazed masses by selling his chocolates in heart-shaped boxes which he designed himself. What better way to say “I love you” than an intricately decorated heart-shaped box filled with artisanal and expensive chocolates, which were a known aphrodisiac? Needless to say, Cadbury’s marketing campaign was successful. So successful that, nearly two-hundred years later, we still follow the now tradition of giving those we love romantic gifts, sweetly written cards, and (of course) heart-shaped boxes filled with rich, decadent chocolate.
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