The Meaning of Valentine's Day
Where does the tradition of gifting chocolate on Valentine’s Day come from?
Sustainability, the true story behind the establishment of Valentine's Day, is somewhat of a mystery, with many tales and interpretations shared over the years. The day gets its name from a famous saint, Saint Valentine, but the origins of the day itself are somewhat disputed. Many believe he was a priest during the time of the Roman Empire during the third century AD. Emperor Claudius II, the ruler at the time, decided to ban marriage because he felt married men made for bad soldiers. Valentine felt this was not a fair rule, so he arranged and performed marriages secretly, breaking the rules. When Valentine was found out, he was sentenced and thrown into jail. It is believed that while he was waiting for execution and serving his jail term, he fell in love with the jailer's daughter. When Valentine was taken for his execution on the 14th of February, he wrote her one final love letter and signed it, 'from your Valentine'; henceforth, Valentine's Day was born.
Some believe that the earliest Valentine's Day dates back to the year 496 and that Valentine's Day emerged out of the Roman springtime festival, Lupercalia, which was held in the middle of February to mark the beginning of spring. There were numerous ways people celebrated Lupercalia, but one of the celebrations was believed to involve single boys drawing the names of single girls from a box. The pair would then couple up and become boyfriend and girlfriend for the time of the festival, and some would then subsequently marry. When the church decided they wanted the festival linked to religion, they named it as a way of commemorating Saint Valentine. Eventually, people began to use this festival, St Valentine, as a dedicated day to express their feelings and love for one another, so Valentine's Day was born.
The truth about Valentine’s Day can only ever be surmised, but in 2023, Valentine’s is a holiday and a celebration of love and giving that is recognised all over the world. People celebrate the day in different ways but traditionally gifts of chocolate and flowers are exchanged alongside loving notes and cards. But where do the traditions of Valentine’s chocolate, flowers and cards come from? Many believe that the very first Valentine’s card was sent in 1415 in France. In this romantic story, Charles, the Duke of Orleans sent love letters to his wife whilst imprisoned.
It is believed that the first-ever Valentine’s Day card originated in France, when Charles, the Duke of Orleans, sent love letters to his wife from the prison in 1415. Within the poem he refers to his wife as “My very gentle Valentine”, giving him the title as the writer and poet behind the first Valentine card, in a manner of speaking.
Valentine’s traditions from around the world
While the majority of the world celebrates Valentine’s Day on the 14th of February, not every country celebrates this commemoration of love in the same way. Here are some of our favourite ways different countries mark Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day coincides with Ghana’s National Chocolate Day. Couples exchange sweet treats, as they do in many countries, to mark their love.
Celebrates Valentine’s Day in July and marks the occasion with a week long festival of sweetness that includes exchanging chocolate and other candies.
3. South Korea
Looking for something a little more regular than once a year? South Korea celebrate love on the 14th of every, single, month! That’s right, the 14th of May is the ‘day of roses’, while the 14th of June is ‘the day of kisses. Because reminding your partner you love them shouldn’t be a once a year occurrence, right?
Celebrates Valentine’s Day on the 24th of February and coincide this celebration with their spring festival. It is a popular time to get engaged.
The 14th of February is a very popular day to get married on, as on Valentine’s Day, the government sponsors mass marriages as a public service.
Over in Brazil, Valentine’s Day is known as ‘Dia dos Namorados’, which means ‘Day for Lovers’. The day however isn’t just for those coupled up, although gift exchanging does take place, it is also a popular time for families to get together.
February 14th in Japan is all about women gifting to men, with a traditional and popular gift being, honmei-choco, which is a home-made chocolate. But don’t worry, women don’t miss out. Men repay the gifting favour a month later on March 14th, phew.
In Wales, ‘love’ is celebrated on the 25th of January and is called St. Dwynwen’s Day, which is after the Welsh patron saint of lovers. Men traditionally gift women with hand-carved wooden spoons. This dates back to when Welsh sailors at sea used to pass the time, carving designs into wooden spoons to bring back to their lovers on their return.
But why do we gift chocolate on Valentine’s Day?
Chocolate is a well-received gift at any time of year, but this sweet treat is particularly popular as a Valentine’s gift. Symbolising care, love, passion and happiness, gifting chocolate is the perfect way to make someone feel special. A delicious way to declare your love for someone, chocolate at its core is an exotically romantic gift.
But why is it just chocolate that is synonymous with Valentine’s Day and not a range of sweet treats? While chocolate undeniably tastes utterly delicious, the power of cacao also comes to play here. Since the time of the Aztec, chocolate is believed to be an aphrodisiac, making the receiver more open to romance. This long standing belief has meant that for centuries chocolate has been used as a means of showing affection for someone.
So, is it true? Does chocolate really act as an aphrodisiac? The short answer is yes. There has been some scientific research that suggests that women who eat chocolate desire romance more than those who don’t. In addition to this chocolate really does release a brain soothing chemical which helps to up energy and increase levels of desire.
This mood boosting feeling can often be likened to feeling in love! In fact, some people even think chocolate is the food of the Gods, we’d have to agree. Have you ever taken a bite of chocolate and thought to yourself, ‘well this is truly heavenly?’ Then you might be even more correct than you realise.
Chocolate is made from the cacao bean, which comes from the cacao tree, also known as Theobroma cacao, the Greek way of saying ‘Food for the Gods’. If it’s ok for the Gods, then it’s a perfect wonderful gift for a loved one. Whatever the reason, historical or spiritual, there is no doubt that chocolate, when it comes to Valentine’s Day remains at the top of most people’s gifting list. From creamy white chocolate to velvety smooth or intense dark chocolate, there is something for every taste and dietary requirement. From a simple bar to chocolate coated fruits and nuts to a decadent heart shaped selection box, if you’re looking for the perfect gift to show someone you love them this Valentine’s Day, opt for chocolate and watch its magical powers at play.