Why Do We Give Chocolate on Valentine’s Day?

Since our classroom parties in elementary school, we’ve been receiving chocolate and other sweets from classmates, friends, parents and significant others. If you’re anything like me you’ve probably wondered why we even do this. Was it always this way? Why do we even celebrate Valentine’s Day anyway? If you’ve ever asked yourself any of these questions, or if you are now, you’re in luck because I did the research.

According to Smithsonian.com, the first mention of Valentine’s Day as a romantic holiday appears in Geoffrey Chaucer’s 1382 poem, Parlement of Foules. While the holiday’s origins track a ways back, it wasn’t always linked with sweets. By the time chocolate became commonplace in the English-speaking world in the 1840’s, Valentine’s Day celebrations included showering one’s romantic interest with cards, gifts, poems, songs and even locks of hair.

In 1861, Richard Cadbury changed the game. Cadbury, a popular British chocolatier, had recently invented a new process for making a more palatable drinking chocolate, which resulted in leftover pure cocoa butter that had been extracted through the process. Cue eating chocolate. Once they put the solidified chocolate into molds, they had to create an appealing way to package this new confection.

Cadbury was inspired by the cupid-covered cards and gifts lovers were gifting each other on Valentine’s Day. So, in 1861, he created the ubiquitous heart-shaped boxes we know today in a stroke of marketing genius. Advertised as a gift that kept on giving, allowing individuals to store trinkets or love letters in these elaborately decorated boxes post-chocolate consumption, these boxes became extremely popular and are still treasured today.

While other confectioners have outsold the Cadbury’s in the American market (Milton Hershey and Russell Stover, for example) the British chocolatiers are still credited with starting the Valentine’s Day chocolate frenzy.

So the box of chocolate tradition clearly has staying power and fortunately (or unfortunately for my wallet) won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Unlike the chocolates inside the box.

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