Valentine’s Day dutifully arrives every year on February 14th and is celebrated worldwide with flowers, gift exchanges, and chocolates. The relationship between chocolate and V-Day dates back to Victorian courtship customs, but it also shares a link to confectioners’ propaganda. Chocolate has continued to be the iconic go-to gift of the holiday, celebrating all things romance, love, and affection.
A Saintly Sweetheart
St. Valentine is one of those curious Catholic saints whose story is shrouded in mystery. Some say that the saint was martyred for attempting to covert Emperor Claudius II to Christianity, or for simply practicing his faith.
St. Valentine is most fondly remembered for secretly marrying couples, which led to his reputation as a champion of true love. As a token of St. Valentine’s efforts, the martyr gained a solemn feast day. Non-religious observations of the day that originally marked his martyrdom typically call for sharing sweet chocolates and making romantic gestures.
Bites Of Love
Boxes of chocolate for Valentine’s Day were originally decked out in ribbons and lace, mimicking women’s fashion in the Victorian era. The chocolate that lay hidden inside the box was symbolic of courtship or intimacy, so single women were cautious about accepting chocolates. Victorian courtship insisted that only ladies were to be wooed with boxes of pricey chocolate bonbons, so those who dared to challenge gender roles were seen as rare and fascinating.
Capitalism has inevitably also played a role on Valentine’s Day. After the invention of the cacao press in the 19th century, manufacturers could produce delicious chocolaty goodness at a large scale. Candy makers increasingly looked forward to a surge in chocolate sales to make up for sales slumps throughout the rest of the year. Many confection companies would advertise the importance of buying chocolate as a symbol of affection, and the more expensive the better.
The Perfect “Love Drug”
If love is a drug, then chocolate makes it all the more addictive – actually. There are more than 300 chemicals that naturally occur in the substance, which trigger intense lovey-dovey feelings that make people feel happy, and decrease stress and pain.
Eating chocolate causes the human brain to stimulate neurotransmitters like phenylethylamine, tryptophan, and serotonin which trigger a state of euphoria and contentment that is said to be akin to a low-key high, or rather, the feeling of falling in love.