Iconic sweet treats have lovely history

Roses are red and violets are blue, but why do we give the gifts that we do? Flowers and chocolate are undoubtedly the most popular presents on Valentine’s Day, but what exactly is it that makes these particular items so representative of romance? The answer lies in the history of both.

Though the exact details are debatable, the tradition of giving flowers as a sign of love emerged across the world from England. According to legend, it all started when Lady Mary Wortley Montagu—the wife of a British prime minister—was stationed in Turkey with her husband during the early eighteenth century. While she was there, she noticed that the people in Turkey would give each other arrangements of flowers to convey messages of love. When she returned to England, she told others of what she had seen and tried to spread the tradition across England. However, it would not be until several years later when Queen Victoria majorly popularized the practice. The desire to learn the so-called “language of flowers” skyrocketed in demand as people started to use flowers to communicate strong emotions, which often were not allowed to be displayed in polite Victorian society. According to tradition, the types of flowers in the bouquet, the way that the bouquet was styled, and how it was presented to a person all combined into a cohesive message. The complexities of such arrangements caused guidebooks for understanding the “language” to explode in popularity. Eventually, this practice made its way to the United States as well as the rest of the world, where it has remained a classic tradition ever since.

The origins for chocolate’s correlation to love date back much farther. It began with the Aztec civilization. Cacao was considered the “gift of the gods” and was often used in marriage rituals among the people. However, the Aztec civilization was long gone by the time chocolate was popularized in Europe. The first official Valentine’s Day chocolates were produced in 1861 by British confectioner Richard Cadbury. After the candies had been crafted, they were placed into a heart shaped box decorated with decals commonly associated with romance at the time, such as Cupids and roses. The boxes sold so well that Cadbury started producing more and more annually, and continue to do so today.

Though several other Valentine’s gifts exist, none are quite so popular as these two, and while they’re quite sweet, the backstories make them all the sweeter.