One of the most popular contenders for gifts on Valentine’s Day, aside from flowers, is chocolate. This is no surprise given the hundreds of heart shaped boxes filled with chocolate that line the store shelves before the tinsel & string lights can be put into the clearance bin. In fact, Valentine’s Day is the third most popular holiday for chocolate sales, coming just under Easter and Christmas. As great as it is to receive a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day, or get them on sale the next day, have you ever wondered why this dessert is considered so “romantic?”
- The back story. Believe it or not, commercialized chocolate in a romantic sense started almost two hundred years ago by Richard Cadbury, who started the tradition by packaging his chocolates in heart shaped boxes with rosebuds (recognize his last name??). It was at a time when Valentine’s Day was rising in popularity, and people began giving each other flowers & other gifts. Today, over 58 million pounds of chocolate, or $2 billion worth, is sold each Valentine’s Day.
- The wealthy. Before chocolate became popular among everyone, it was considered a rare commodity only accessible for the wealthy and royal. It’s said that in the 1600s, Maîtresse-en-titre of Louis XV of France, Madame du Barry, used to make hot chocolate and mix it with amber to “stimulate” her “lovers.” But chocolate’s romantic roots go back even farther than the Victorian era.
- The way-back story. Around 500 B.C. cocoa was a common form of drink and currency in the Mayan culture and was often used in wedding ceremonies. As currency, cocoa was often used as a dowry, the “down payment” the family of the bride would pay the groom to arrange a marriage. Furthermore, at the ceremonies, chocolate liquor was often served in celebration and was referred to as the “gift of the gods.”
- The science. But even with the overwhelming amount of heart-shaped chocolate and the history behind it, there’s also science to back up the reason chocolate is and always has been associated with romance. Chocolate contains tryptophan, an amino acid that triggers the release of hormones that increase serotonin levels. Serotonin is a chemical messenger in the brain that is linked to happiness. In fact, the reaction that is unleashed in your brain when you’re attracted to someone is the same one the brain has when consuming chocolate. In other words, chocolate has been known as an aphrodisiac for quite some time. The release of chemicals in our brain, whether from chocolate or attraction, make us feel a boost of happiness and decrease in overall anxiety.
We’ve always known chocolate was worth falling in love over, so this Valentine’s Day, try gifting your significant other a box of chocolates – you can’t go wrong!