While every day is a great day to eat chocolate, Valentine's Day is seen as a time to indulge a little bit more than usual. Whether you prefer a peanut butter-filled hearts or a big box of truffles, chocolates are a well-known Valentine's Day gift. According to the National Confectioners Association, an estimated 87 percent of consumers are expected to give chocolate or candy as a gift this Valentine's Day. But how did the rich candies become affiliated with February 14?
According to Mental Floss, chocolate and romance have been linked since approximately 500 B.C., far before the Feast of St. Valentine came to be. A bride and groom would drink an early version of hot chocolate during their wedding ceremony, "foreshadowing chocolate's future status as a universal expression of love," writes Michele Debczak. Other communities embraced chocolate for its presumed connection to intimacy. The Aztecs viewed chocolate as an aphrodisiac, according to NPR, believing that the chemicals in chocolate—specifically tryptophan and phenylethylamine—were associated with feelings of love and desire. Even Italian explorer Giacomo Casanova called chocolate "the elixir of love." However, scientists have disputed the belief that chocolate has any real psychological properties.
It wasn't until the mid-1800s that February 14 became the official day to celebrate Valentine's Day in Britain and the United States. During the 1860s, Cadbury capitalized on the connection between chocolate and romance, selling their individually wrapped sweets in heart-shaped boxes. Afterward, consumers could store special trinkets, love letters, and even locks of hair in the empty boxes. "No matter your preference, sharing confectionery products on Valentine's Day is a celebration of the power of chocolate and candy to bring people together," said John Downs, president & CEO of the National Confectioners Association, in a statement. "Gifting these treats on Valentine's Day is as iconic and tied to this moment as the heart-shaped box that so often marks the season."
So, whether you're giving a gift of nuts and chews and fruit-filled confections, or trying your hand at making your own chocolates, like these Chocolate-Caramel Truffles, your holiday is sure to be a sweet one.