How Chocolate Became a Valentine's Day Staple - Deepstash
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Valentine's Day and Roman Saints

Valentine's Day and Roman Saints

Valentine’s Day is actually named for two different Roman saints, both called Valentine and both utterly unconnected to romantic love.

Though legend persists that the original St. Valentine was a priest who performed illegal marriages for Emperor Claudius’ soldiers, there’s no evidence to suggest this ever happened. 

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The First Romantic Mention of St. Valentine’s Day

The first mention of St. Valentine’s Day as a romantic holiday appeared in the writings of Geoffrey Chaucer in 1382. With the medieval period came a new focus on illicit but chaste courtly love, and it is here that we see some of the familiar iconographies begin to appear. Knights would give roses to their maidens and celebrate their beauty in songs from afar. 

But sugar was still a precious commodity in Europe, so there was no talk of exchanging candy gifts.

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The First Valentine's Day Box of Chocolates

The First Valentine's Day Box of Chocolates

  • By the 1840s, the notion of Valentine’s Day as a holiday to celebrate romantic love had taken over most of the English-speaking world.
  • Into this love-crazed fray came entrepreneur Richard Cadbury (around 1868). Cadbury had recently improved its chocolate-making technique so as to extract pure cocoa butter from whole beans. This process resulted in an excess amount of cocoa butter, which Cadbury used to produce many more varieties of what was then called “eating chocolate.”
  • He recognized a great marketing opportunity for the new chocolates and started selling them in beautifully decorated boxes that he himself designed.
  • From that point, it was a quick jump to taking the familiar images of Cupids and roses and putting them on heart-shaped boxes.
  • While Richard Cadbury didn’t actually patent the heart-shaped box, it’s widely believed that he was the first to produce one.

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Valentine's Day and WW2

The Cadbury chocolate boxes grew increasingly elaborate until the outbreak of World War II, when sugar was rationed and Valentine’s Day celebrations were scaled down.

But Victorian-era Cadbury boxes still exist, and many are treasured family heirlooms or valuable items prized by collectors.

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