There is only one thing that can unify the excited couples steeped in pink heart decorations and the nauseated eye-rollers on Valentine’s Day: chocolate. One way or another, we all end up eating that decadent treat on Feb. 14. While I will be the first to defend the merits of chocolate, the 58 million pounds of chocolate purchased during Valentine’s week makes it impossible not to wonder what caused this tenured Valentine’s phenomenon.
Although it goes against my very nature to question the consumption of copious amounts of high-quality sweet treats, I was intrigued by the history of this delicious tradition, which turned out to be absolutely fascinating. The connection between chocolate and love predates our appetites by thousands of years, going all the way back to the Aztecs. An Aztec emperor was said to have religiously consumed drinks made of cocoa beans to improve his luck with the ladies, beginning chocolate’s long history of being considered an aphrodisiac. While scientists haven’t conclusively verified this theory, it’s clear that this Aztec emperor knew what was up. The connection between love and chocolate heated up further in the 19th century, with certain Victorian etiquette books even warning women to be wary of accepting chocolates from men they weren’t romantically involved with. Luckily, these etiquette books are now out of print.
Ultimately, it was the company Cadbury that connected Valentine’s Day and chocolate. In 1868, it started manufacturing fancy boxes of chocolates in the shape of hearts in honor of the holiday. Initially, the boxes were as important as their delicious contents, with Victorians using them to store love letters and other tokens of love. Now, 36 million heart shaped chocolate boxes are sold on Valentine’s Day in the United States.
So this Valentine’s Day, chocoholics feel free to rejoice knowing that a majority of our ancestors were just as obsessed with chocolate as we are today. Reach for that chocolate, whether it’s for your significant other or for yourself, guilt-free.
Email Amasha Nanayakkara at [email protected]