A day full of love, hearts, cards and of course... chocolate!
Because a holiday without chocolate isn’t a holiday! And yes, you can quote me on that.
Saint Valentine’s Day, as the full name reads, dates back to the Ancient Romans. Originally, the holiday’s goal was finding a wife for men. But throughout the years, it has evolved and was ‘Christianized’ and commercialized. In the 17th century in England, Valentine’s Day was already kind of celebrated like the holiday we know. That was mainly because of Shakespeare and Chaucer. They wrote romantic stories and poems about Valentine’s Day. People liked their work so much that they decided to start writing romantic letters and poems themselves and give it to their loved one. From the 19th century onward, Valentine’s Day got more and more commercial. It probably won’t come as a surprise that the commercialization started in the United States: Esther A. Howland started mass producing valentine cards. Ever since, cards, flowers, bears, jewels and chocolate have been the most gifted gifts. In Belgium Valentine’s Day is (becoming) a true tradition as well, but mostly commercially speaking.
But why chocolate ?
It all started with the Aztecs, the original chocolate makers (but as a drink). It was thought that chocolate was an aphrodisiac and sparked lust and love. That’s why it was seen as ‘romantic food’. When chocolate came to Europe, so did the myth of aphrodisiac. The noblemen and women also thought they felt more lust and other ‘romantic’ feelings when they had drank chocolate. That’s why they gifted their loved one chocolate (as a subtle hint). After chocolate got cheaper and more accessible to the common people, they decided to take on the tradition. Given the fact chocolate was often gifted, chocolate maker Cadbury figured out that beautiful packaging couldn't be overlooked. That’s why he made boxes for chocolate with all sorts of decorations and colors. A little while later, he also came up with a box shaped like a heart. The tradition continued and spread through Europe (and the rest of the world). This tradition still lives on, not only because people love tradition, but also due to the fact that chocolate is just incredibly delicious. Until recently it was also still thought to be an aphrodisiac, but scientific studies have shown that that isn’t true. However, other types of happiness hormones are released in the brain. But we already knew, of course, that chocolate makes you happy (it’s nice though that it’s scientifically proven).
And like Charles M. Schulz, maker of Peanuts once said:
All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.
Do you know where most of the world's chocolate is sold?
Right here in Belgium: at Brussels's Airport in the shop Belgian Chocolate House sells the most chocolate in the world (650 tons per year). There’s a perfectly logical reason for that: Belgium is known for its quality chocolate, so tourists and other travelers like to take Belgian chocolate (back) with them on their travels. To treat themselves, surprise family and friends or to introduce those they visit to this delicious Belgian heritage.