by Valerie Beck
How did Valentine's Day get so sweet?
Valentine's Day is February 14. It's the holiday of love, whether romantic or friendship-based. But where did it come from, and how did chocolate (thankfully!) become associated with it?
The holiday began as an ancient Roman fertility festival, was Christianized with a St. Valentine who according to legend married star-crossed lovers in secret against the wishes of Roman emperor Claudius II, became a day to celebrate romance during the rise of courtly love during the 14th century, and has since spread throughout the world, in various permutations. On Valentine's Day in Japan for example, women give chocolate to men!
Chocolate has long been associated with love, from Mayan times onward, because of its mood elevating properties. (The way to a woman's heart is through chocolate truffles?) In contemporary times, the week of Valentine's Day is the number one week for chocolate purchases (and the day after Valentine's Day is the number one day for chocolate bargains). A holiday for romantic love needs its talismans, and wouldn't you agree Valentine's Day wouldn't be the same without chocolate!
Celebrate the Chicago Chocolate Tours way with our Valentine themed offers! Happy Valentine's Day!
Happy Halloween! Where did this holiday come from?
I was in a taxi recently, texting and tapping on my phone on my way to one of the Chicago Chocolate Tours participating stores, and the taxi driver suddenly asked me: What is the origin of Halloween?
He asked the right person - smile!
I told him that what today is a candy-filled costume extravaganza for children and adults started thousands of years ago as a pagan Celtic observance in England.
As the harvest closed and the days grew shorter, the Celts believed that good and evil spirits wandered during the long nights. They put out food on October 31, seen as the last day of summer and of the year, in the belief that this would appease the spirits and keep evil ones from harming them. "Hallows Eve" was a sort of festival of the dead, and people wore masks and costumes to disguise themselves as spirits, and put candles in the windows to honor the dead.
When Christianity came to England, the Church took this pagan festival in the 800s and tied it to All Saint's Day, which is November 1. The Church convinced people to give food to the poor on Halloween instead of putting it outside their houses. Beggars went from house to house for "soul cakes," and this was the precursor to trick-or-treating.
When the English first came to America, they brought Halloween, and as Irish and English continued to come to the US in the second half of the 19th century, Americans converted the practices of Halloween to a secular holiday again. Halloween became more about family and community, and the first trick-or-treating children are believed to have cavorted in the 1920s. By the 1950s, trick-or-treating was in full swing, and today Halloween is a national party of kids and costumes, and candy and parties for all.
And what's everyone's favorite candy? Chocolate, of course!