A brief history lesson before we delve into the sweet reason of Chocolate on Valentine’s day…
St. Valentine’s Day began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in 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 that he be put to death.
“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.”
Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written Valentine’s didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. 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 following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. (The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.)
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
– Lao Tzu
Our infatuation with chocolate first began 2,000 years ago when it was discovered in Latin America. The Maya and Aztec elites infused cocoa beans with water to form frothy chocolate drinks – the first frappuccinos, if you will – for special occasions and as sacrifices to the gods. The Aztec ruler Montezuma believed that chocolate was an aphrodisiac and routinely drank it before entering his harem, thus increasing chocolate’s popularity and its association with love and romance. As it turns out, he was ahead of his time. Modern-day scientists have linked the chemical phenylethylamine in chocolate to feelings of excitement, attraction and even pleasure.
“Young love is a flame; very pretty, often very hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. The love of the older and disciplined heart is as coals, deep-burning, unquenchable.”
– Henry Ward Beecher
Christopher Columbus saw how the Aztecs revered cocoa when he entered the picture in the sixteenth century and immediately took the luxury product back to Queen Isabella of Spain. Chocoholics sprouted up all over Europe, sharing the legend of their new obsession’s alleged mythical powers. At one point in time, chocolate was believed to be so potent that nuns were forbidden from eating it and French doctors used it to treat “broken hearts.”
“Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.
– Zora Neale Hurston”
So whatever your reason is for celebrating Valentine’s Day make sure that your heart is filled with love and your hands are filled with chocolate.