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The History of Valentines Day and Chocolate

With Valentine’s Day approaching, I’ve wondered why we celebrate this “Hallmark” holiday.  Who came up with it, why is it called Valentine’s Day, and why are chocolates given in a hart shaped box?  141 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine’s Day the second-most popular greeting-card-giving occasion, Christmas being the first, how crazy!

It goes all the way back to the 4th century BC. The ancient Romans held an annual feast called Lupercalia on February 15th.  One of the festivities was to pair young men and women for a year, by a sort of ‘lottery.’ As you can imagine, this pairing event led to many marriages!

The ruler of the time, Claudius II, realized that the more marriages took place, the more young men did not sign up to be in the army. In addition, Claudius felt that men would be too distracted and could not effectively participate in battle if they were married or engaged.  Being ever so wise, Emperor Claudius II simply banned marriages!

Along came a priest named Valentine and secretly, he performed marriage ceremonies.  As a result of his defiance from Roman law, Valentine was put to death on February 14th.

In the middles ages, February 14th was said to be the day of “love,” for it was believed that birds mated on that day.  The tradition started in the early 1400’s of sending “love letters.”

The red heart became the symbol and most people would create hand-made cards for their loved ones. By 1840, Mrs. Esther Howard got the idea to mass produce these cards and sold $5,000 worth.  That would mean well over a quarter of a million dollars to you and me!

1840 marked another big year in history, it was the very first time chocolate was eaten! Prior to 1840, chocolate was consumed as only a beverage. The 1840’s brought Belgian chemists working day and night to combine cocoa butter sugar and flavors into chocolate so they may be pressed into molds.

By 1849 the Cadbury brothers got the recipe right and created the very first box of chocolates!  In 1861 Richard Cadbury created the very first heart shaped box of chocolates to give the sweet taste of chocolate to people’s “sweeties.”

Chocolate has been associated with love.  Chocolate contains the substance, phenylethylamine, which is the very same chemical produced by the brain when we are in love?  We as human, love feeling love, so its no wonder that we can often turn to chocolate when we are not feeling love from a person!




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