BY SAMANTHA SCHWALM
Valentine’s Day is a holiday overflowing with love, flowers, and lots of chocolate. The holiday started like most Catholic holidays, a day of celebration for St. Valentine, a Roman priest who continued to perform the sacrament of marriage between men and women in full defiance of an edict from Roman Emperor Claudius the second. According to the Smithsonian, it started becoming a romantic holiday when Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a poem to honor the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, in which he described birds mating on Valentine’s Day. Other poets, like Shakespeare followed suit. By the end of the 10th century, sending valentines to loved ones and friends in Victorian England had become so popular that greeting card companies thrived by meeting the growing demand for Valentine’s Day cards. By the twentieth century, candy, roses, and wedding proposals had become standard in England, America, and around the world.
Chocolate has been around since the Aztecs, and it was considered a symbol of considerable wealth and status. However, it wasn’t until 1861, when Richard Cadbury began selling chocolates in heart-shaped boxes, which began its now inseparable connection to Valentine’s Day. He placed hearts, roses, and cupids on top of the boxes, to create keepsakes as reminders of one’s love. Here in the United States, a chocolate pioneer named, Milton Hershey, started out as a caramel maker. He eventually came up with the idea to cover the caramels with chocolate. “Kisses” were born in 1907, when Hershey launched tear drop shaped chocolates that made a smooching sound when they came out of the machine.
Finally, what would Valentine’s Day be without those little hard candy hearts inscribed with sayings “I Love You” or “Be Mine” written on top. The candy hearts started during the time of the Civil War. The original candies were called cockles. These were shell shaped candies that had sayings wrapped in paper and placed in the candies, similar to modern day fortune cookies (also invented in America). In 1847, Oliver Chase invented a machine that cut lozenges, and formed Chase & Co., which became the New England Confectionary Company (NECCO). Oliver’s brother, Daniel Chase created the first candy hearts we know and love in 1866. He was able to do this through a machine he created to press food dye letters onto the candy made by his brother. So, thanks to two brother’s ingenuity, countless grade school classrooms continue to be filled on Valentine’s Day with candy hearts.
Valentine’s Day is no longer simply chocolate and candy hearts. The holiday has expanded into a day for enjoyment of all types of desserts: chocolate covered strawberries, cupcakes and all types of cakes and pastries. Cupcakes have become popular recently due to the wide variety of flavors and colors. One of my favorites is a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting and also because I love the red and white color combination for Valentine’s Day. My daughter loves strawberry cake with white frosting, and requests it every year for her birthday. In fact, now that my children are old enough to celebrate Valentine’s Day at school, my children love to make their own special treats for their teachers and friends. We love rolling out cookie dough and making cookies with the cookie cutter collection that spans three generations. Of course their favorite part is spreading pink, white, & red frosting, adding sprinkles and sampling hot cookies out of the oven!
Whether you are home or out to eat, do not let this holiday go by without at least one sweet indulgence with a loved one. To paraphrase one of my friends, “Laugh more, order dessert, and love life!”