This post has been updated for 2018 with new statistics and fun facts.

Nearly $1.8 billion is estimated to be spent on candy and chocolate for Valentine’s Day this year. Holy cacao! That’s a lot of chocolate – am I right?! Every Valentine’s Day, chocolate plays a huge role in this romantic holiday. But why exactly is that? Is it because of all those wonderful health benefits we listed in our latest blog, or is it because it’s just simply satisfying? Let’s rewind for a bit and take it back to where it all started…

Chocolate has been referred to as a “food of the gods” since the time of the Aztec Indians. Rooted in Mesoamerican history, chocolate, in liquid form, and cacao beans were both highly-prized luxury items among the Mayan and Aztec upper class elites. In fact, cacao beans were as valuable a commodity as gold, and were even used to pay taxes levied by Aztec rulers. By nature, chocolate is luxurious and indulgent, and has been used for centuries as a token of appreciation.

It wasn’t until the Spanish conquest of the Aztec civilization in the early 1500s that the cacao bean made its way to Europe. Chocolate immediately won the hearts of the Spanish court and quickly spread throughout the rest of Europe. By the early 1600s, chocolate was seen as a great way to show appreciation towards others, and “chocolate houses” became popular spots for social gatherings.

Over the years, as chocolate grew more accessible, it came to be associated less with opulence and more with romantic gestures. Today, in 2018, 94% of all Americans said they hope to receive candy or chocolate for Valentine’s Day. But how did Valentine’s Day and chocolate come to be so inseparable? Let’s find out!

Chocolate for Valentine’s Day: a Heart-Shaped History

why give valentine's day chocolateThe origin of Valentine’s Day is linked back to two early Roman saints, both named Valentine, but utterly unconnected to romantic love. The first mention of St. Valentine’s Day as a romantic holiday appeared in the writings of Chaucer, specifically in the 1382 poem, Parlement of Foules. Chaucer describes the nature of love when “every bird cometh to choose his mate…on seynt Voantynes day.” Centuries later, people celebrated with songs, poetry and roses, but Valentine’s Day chocolate and candy weren’t yet intertwined, as sugar was still a precious commodity in Europe.

Around 1837, when Queen Victoria reigned, Valentine’s Day turned into a commercial bonanza where Victorians would shower their significant others with Cupid-themed gifts and cards. Later in the 1800s, some well-known chocolatiers came up with a process of extracting pure cacao butter from whole cacao beans to create a more desirable form of “drinking chocolate.” This process resulted in an excess of cacao butter, which was used to produce more varieties of what was then called “eating chocolate.”

In a stroke of marketing genius, these chocolates were packaged in heart-shaped boxes decorated with Cupids and rosebuds. From that point on, giving chocolate for Valentine’s Day became the go-to gift idea for love birds everywhere.

Keeping the Valentine’s Day Chocolate Tradition Alive

As we stated above, the vast majority of Americans hope to receive chocolate and candy this Valentine’s Day. First matter of business – if you’re a part of this chocolate-giving group, we’d like to congratulate you on keeping the tradition alive! Malley’s Chocolates appreciates the history behind this romantic holiday and wants to help you spread the love on February 14th.

There are 23 Malley’s locations across Northeast Ohio, so make sure to stop in to a location near you to pick up some wonderful Valentine’s Day chocolate and other treats for your significant other! And if you’re ridin’ solo on this Valentine’s Day, don’t forget about your family members, as chocolate is still looked at as a token of appreciation! Either way, happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at Malley’s Chocolates.