According to the Huffington Post, people spend more than one billion dollars on Valentine's candy each year. Some express their love with a traditional box of chocolates, while others go for inventive treats such as ultra-decadent Krispy Kreme donuts in flavors like salted almond or double berry.
The History Channel reports that Valentine's Day is named after two Roman saints named Valentine. Although neither of them were even remotely connected to romance in reality, legend says that one of the Saints Valentine performed marriages without the emperor's permission. So where did we get the idea that candy and other sweets make a great gift for Valentine's Day?
The holiday was first mentioned by Chaucer in 1382, during an era in history when forbidden but chaste courtly love became popular. This period saw the rise of iconography that remains familiar today, with knights presenting maidens with roses and celebrating their beauty with poetic songs sung from afar. As sugar was still a precious commodity, candy was not part of the original picture.
By the 1840s, the idea of Valentine's Day as a celebration of romance had taken hold in the English-speaking world. When Victorians began showering their loved ones with ornate cards and elaborate gifts, a British candy salesman, Richard Cadbury, had an idea. Recognizing an incredible marketing opportunity, he started selling beautifully decorated boxes of chocolate at Valentine's Day.
While Cadbury didn't patent the familiar heart-shaped boxes that continue to hold Valentine's candy to this day, The History Channel says it is believed that he was the first to produce them. In marketing materials designed to entice people from all walks of life to buy candy for loved ones, he promoted the elaborate boxes as containers that could be re-used to hold love letters and other mementos once the sweets inside had been consumed.
Today's Valentine's candy includes delicacies like truffles and other filled chocolates. Chocolate-dipped strawberries are popular as well, with plenty of flavor but less fat than traditional confections.
For anyone watching their weight, Examiner.com offers a list of diet Valentine's candy, including low-cal Valentine's Day chocolates and other goodies that can quash intense cravings. South Beach Diet Good to Go Bars made it onto the list, along with York Peppermint Patties, which have about half the calories of regular candy bars. Surprisingly, dark chocolate bars with 70-percent cacao or higher also made the grade.
If the object of your affections doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, there are alternatives to Valentine's candy. Wine, roses, jewelry, and experiential gifts such as dinner out or tickets to an event such as a concert or movie make fantastic gifts on Valentine's Day, minus the sugar associated with candy.
[Valentine's candy image courtesy of Charmings Collectibles]