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Who Put the Sweets in Valentine’s Day?

holiday sweet conversation hearts

Have you heard? Conversation hearts are back for Valentine’s this year! Although not as “talkative” this year with fewer phrases printed on them, fans of this candy will be ecstatic to learn that the original flavor recipe has been recreated. Yay for banana and wintergreen! If you knew this already then you may be one of the 52% of people who will be giving candy this year according to the National Retail Federation. How did this most romantic of days get so sticky sweet anyway?

More than 40 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolates are sold for Valentine’s Day (that’s a whopping 58-million pounds of chocolate sitting on our collective hips!) and that’s not counting all the other varieties of candy sold to celebrate the day. Conversation Hearts aside, chocolate is a top favorite to give and receive. In fact, 69% of people prefer chocolate over flowers as a Valentine’s Day Gift. It appears we have a passion for more than just romance on February 14th!


How did chocolate become associated with Valentine’s Day? One reason comes from the UK where the classic Valentine’s Day heart-shaped chocolate box got its start. In 1861 Richard Cadbury of England started selling his chocolate assortments in heart-shaped boxes that were elaborately decorated with cupids and roses, his creative idea as a way to market Cadbury’s assorted fancy chocolates. If you were the lucky recipient of an exquisite heart-shaped box filled with chocolates, you certainly didn’t throw the box away. After all of the scrumptious chocolates were eaten, the box itself was used to hold anything from sentimental love notes to spare buttons. This heart-shaped box idea of Cadbury’s sparked the commercialization of candy for Valentine’s Day and by the 1900’s chocolate was the top gift to give your paramour!

The U.S. based chocolate company Whitman’s created their own version of the assorted chocolate collection which they called the “Sampler” in 1912 which became just as popular as the UK’s version. Just like the elaborately decorated Cadbury boxes, the Whitman boxes also relied on beautiful art to market their chocolates. The Sampler was one of the most advertised chocolate boxes with print ads featuring works from top illustrators and images of celebrities like Humphrey Bogart, Elizabeth Taylor and Jimmy Stewart. One of their classic slogans “A Woman Never Forgets a Man who Remembers” played up the idea that gifting someone with chocolates was a romantic gesture.

whitmans chocolates

Another reason why chocolate is perceived as a romantic gift might be found in the chocolate itself. Since the age of the Aztecs, it is believed that chocolate has aphrodisiac properties. Scientists attribute this to two chemicals that are both found in chocolate. Tryptophan, a building block of serotonin, and phenylethylamine, an amphetamine-like stimulant, are also the same two chemicals released in the brain when people fall in love! Even if chocolate as an aphrodisiac seems a little far-fetched it’s not hard to prove that eating chocolate makes us happy just by the way we feel after we eat it (provided we don’t eat the whole box in one sitting).  And, if you are the recipient of a beautiful heart-shaped box of delicious chocolate that then leads to romance well… all the better!

No matter how we got here, it’s clear Valentine’s Day is not only for the sweeties but for sweets! Until the next blog check out our “Turn up the Heat Sale” on nightgowns and chemises!

Deb Fries is a freelance designer and writer and worked at Julianna Rae in Customer Service and Graphics, she writes all her blogs for in the Heavenly Spa Robe in Shale.