Valentine’s Day has long been a celebration of love, friendship, and romance. For most of us, the holiday has never passed without its trademark symbol: the heart-shaped box of chocolates. While flowers, balloons, stuffed animals, and other sentimental gifts have made their way into the yearly rotation, the Valentine’s box retains its title as the champion gift for all ages, genders, and relationships. How exactly did this come to be? Let’s learn a little more about the history of the Valentine’s box.
How Did Valentine’s Day Begin?
Before we discuss the heart-shaped boxes themselves, it is important to know how Valentine’s Day came about. You can read the full history behind the holiday here (LINK TO VALENTINE’S HISTORY ARTICLE), but the following is a quick summary.
While the exact origin of Valentine’s Day remains unproven even today, several legends surround it, allowing you to choose your favorite! What we know for sure is that the tradition of celebrating Valentine’s Day began a very long time ago, likely in the 3rd or 4th century A.D. Originally, it was a Christian take on a Roman holiday celebrating fertility (known as Lupercalia), meant to downplay the fertility aspect and celebrate the love aspect.
The holiday came about when the legend of St. Valentine was born. The most popular story regarding St. Valentine is that he married young soldiers in secret during a time when marriage was deemed a distraction for soldiers and legally outlawed.
The celebration date of February 14th is thought to have originated from when the birds’ mating season begins. This is the same reason doves have long been considered a symbol of pure love.
The History Behind Chocolate Boxes on Valentine’s Day
Of course, Valentine’s Day did not automatically come with ribbons and chocolates, and stuffed bears. Like other holidays, these traditions were born over time. How, though? Surprisingly, Valentine’s boxes did not form from legends or fairytales about showering your loved ones with luxurious sweets. In truth, the now-famous tradition was a simple trick of marketing.
The late 18th and 19th centuries saw significant growth in industrial products. England’s industrial revolution began in 1760 and quickly spread to other cultures, including the young United States. Close to a hundred years after the start of England’s industrial revolution, Richard Cadbury was developing his chocolate-manufacturing business. Yes, the Richard Cadbury of your favorite Cadbury eggs!
Keep in mind that even as mass-manufacturing picked up the pace in Western culture, people were still celebrating Valentine’s Day. At this point, it had become a holiday known for sparking romance. Cadbury decided to use this to his business’s advantage and in 1861, he began selling his chocolates in heart-shaped boxes.
It was a simple marketing strategy, but astonishingly, he was the first to try it. The heart-shaped boxes instantly became popular among young lovers, not only for the chocolates they harbored but for their usefulness afterward. Couples kept romantic keepsakes such as letters, locks of hair, jewelry, etc. inside their heart-shaped boxes to remind them of their sweetheart.
A Fast-Growing Industry
Of course, other companies quickly caught on to Cadbury’s tactic and followed suit. Valentine’s Day rapidly grew up in popularity into the 20th century, and today it is easily a billion-dollar industry. In fact, studies show that over 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are purchased annually, not including other Valentine’s products. Of course, other gestures of love now include special date nights, extravagant bouquets, decadent desserts, and more.
Don’t Break Tradition!
While the Valentine’s chocolate tradition may have been a simple trick of marketing, we couldn’t be more thankful for how it turned out. There is nothing quite like receiving a beautiful box of chocolates from your loved one (even if it isn’t Valentine’s Day!), especially if the chocolate is high-quality.
Beautiful, delicious chocolate is our passion, and we want to share our passion with you! Learn more about our business here or shop our wide variety of bonbons. If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to call us today.