Valentine's Day is a day rich with history, and one that can be traced back to ancient Rome where Lupercalia, a fertility festival, was celebrated in mid-February. Fast-forward to 200-300 A.D., when at least two Christian clerics known as Valentine are martyred, and in the late 400s, Pope Gelasius declares February 14 a day for honoring Saint Valentine. It wasn't until the 1300s, however, that St. Valentine's Day became associated with love and romance.
By the 1600s, Europe embraced the tradition of exchanging valentines, and it wasn't until the 1840s that the first mass-produced valentines were sold. But that begs the question: How did chocolate become linked to the love holiday?
While there is no definitive answer, as the relationship evolved over many centuries, chocolate was first connected to romance from another ancient civilization: the Aztecs. Emperor Montezuma believed the sweet stuff was an aphrodisiac, and he thought it made him extra virile in the bedroom. Both the Aztecs and the Mayans utilized chocolate in their wedding ceremonies. Even Casanova, history's most famous lover, employed chocolate when engaging in the art of seduction.
By 1868, the first Valentine's Day box of chocolates was introduced, establishing an iconic romantic tradition. Read on for more facts about love's favorite candy:
The first bar of chocolate appeared in 1847. Thanks to Bristol company Fry & Son , the first ever chocolate bar was made from a mixture of cocoa powder and sugar, with some melted cocoa butter that had been extracted from the cacao beans.
58 million pounds of chocolate are bought during Valentine's Day week. However, this isn't the biggest holiday for chocolate sales. While Easter beats Valentine's Day, Halloween tops both: over 90 million pounds of chocolate candy are bought during the October holiday.
The biggest days for chocolate sales during Valentine's week are February 13 and February 15. Thank goodness for procrastinators and bargain shoppers, I guess.
Switzerland is the country that eats the most chocolate. About 22 pounds of chocolate are eaten per person every year.
Chocolate grows the best within 20 degrees of the equator . 75% of cacao plants actually grow within 8 degrees of the midline, and most grow in West Africa.
There is no chocolate in white chocolate. According to Bon Appetit , white chocolate is "made with a blend of sugar, cocoa butter, milk products, vanilla, and a fatty substance called lecithin. Technically, white chocolate is not a chocolate-and it doesn't really taste like one-because it doesn't contain chocolate solids."
Dark chocolate is considered healthier than milk chocolate. It is lower in sugar and higher in iron and fiber, and contains heart-protecting antioxidants. Stick to high cacao percentages (70% and above).
Chocolate brings in around $110 billion a year. This makes the industry's value larger than the GDP of over 130 countries on the planet.
The most valuable chocolate bar in the world is worth $687. It's an over 100-year old Cadbury's chocolate bar that traveled with Captain Robert Scott's first Discovery expedition (1901-1904) to the Antarctic. It was sold at Christie's in September of 2001.
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