Valentine's Day Chocolate

HEART SHAPED BOXES OF CHOCOLATE...
Conversation hearts, truffles galore and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates are the symbols of Valentine’s Day for many lovers around the world. Is it because of chocolate’s reputed aphrodisiac qualities that it became so popular? 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. The prudish Victorians adored the notion of courtly love and showered each other with elaborate cards and gifts. Into this love-crazed fray came Richard Cadbury, scion of a British chocolate manufacturing family. Cadbury had recently improved its chocolate making technique so as to extract pure cocoa butter from whole beans, producing a more palatable drinking chocolate than most Britons had ever tasted. 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.” Richard recognized a great marketing opportunity for the new chocolates and started selling them in beautifully decorated boxes that he himself designed.

While Richard Cadbury didn’t actually patent the heart-shaped box, it’s widely believed that he was the first to produce one. Cadbury marketed the boxes as having a dual purpose: When the chocolates had all been eaten, the box itself was so pretty that it could be used again and again to store mementos, from locks of hair to love letters. The boxes grew increasingly elaborate until the outbreak of World War II, when sugar was rationed and Valentine’s Day celebrations were scaled down. However it didn't take long for the chocolate industry to bounce back after the war and the popularity of giving chocolate to express love became a worldwide tradition.

WHO WAS ST.VALENTINE?...
One legend contends that Valentine was a priest during third century Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered he be put to death.

Other stories suggest Valentine was killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons. According to legend, an imprisoned Valentine sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly–romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

ORIGINS OF VALENTINE’S DAY - A PAGAN FESTIVAL IN FEBRUARY?...
Some believe Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial, which probably occurred around A.D. 270, others claim the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. As part of the festival according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman often these matches ended in marriage.

VALENTINE’S DAY IS A DAY OF ROMANCE...
Lupercalia was eventually outlawed and deemed “un-Christian” at the end of the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century. By the middle of the 18th, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes.