Valentine’s Day, a celebration steeped in history and romance, finds its origins in a blend of Christian martyrdom and ancient Roman traditions. The day is named after St. Valentine, a figure shrouded in mystery, known for defying Emperor Claudius II’s ban on young soldiers marrying by performing secret weddings. Legend has it that Valentine’s acts of love and defiance led to his execution on February 14, forever marking the date as one of romance and love.
This date also aligns with the Roman festival of Lupercalia, a mid-February celebration of fertility, which likely influenced the tradition of romantic gestures on Valentine’s Day as the festival was Christianized and reimagined.
Romantic traditions turn to chocolate
As the tradition evolved, especially in England during the 17th and 18th centuries, Valentine’s Day became an occasion for lovers to exchange handwritten notes and small tokens of affection, a precursor to the more commercialized celebrations of today.
But it was the marriage of chocolate to Valentine’s Day in the 19th century that truly sweetened the deal. With the advent of smoother, more palatable chocolate, thanks to advancements in production techniques, Richard Cadbury saw a golden opportunity. He began selling his chocolates in beautifully ornate, heart-shaped boxes, a marketing masterstroke that played into the Victorian era’s love for elaborate tokens of affection. These boxes, designed to be kept as mementos, intertwined chocolate with love in the cultural imagination, making it an enduring symbol of romance.
Today, chocolate continues to reign supreme as a Valentine’s Day staple, a testament to its enduring appeal as a symbol of luxury, pleasure, and, most importantly, love. The heart-shaped box remains an iconic representation of Valentine’s Day, embodying the sweet essence of the occasion.
Chocolate in Ann Arbor
Locally, the spirit of Valentine’s Day and the tradition of giving chocolate find a unique expression. Our city, known for its vibrant local business scene, is home to a diverse array of chocolatiers and confectioneries that offer a modern twist on this age-old tradition. From handcrafted artisanal chocolates that are as much a feast for the eyes as they are for the palate to timeless classics that evoke a sense of warmth and nostalgia, Ann Arbor’s chocolate offerings cater to every taste and sentiment.
Cherry Republic is known for their unique chocolate experience with a cherry twist, featuring an array of cherry-infused chocolates and confections that celebrate the rich, tart flavors of Michigan cherries.
223 S Main St, Ann Arbor
Edible Arrangements specializes in gourmet gifts including fruit arrangements and platters with treats like chocolate-covered strawberries, dipped fruits, cookies and other irresistible desserts.
3386 Washtenaw Ave, Ann Arbor
Gilbert Chocolates offers a century-old tradition of handcrafted gourmet chocolates, featuring a wide range of high-quality traditional and innovative chocolate blends.
100 Briarwood Circle, Ann Arbor
Kilwin’s provides a delightful array of chocolates, including rich fudge, truffles, and sea salt-infused confections, handcrafted with tradition and pride.
107 E Liberty St, Ann Arbor
Mindo Chocolate Makers uniquely specializes in a range of bean-to-bar chocolates, offering pure chocolate crafted from quality cacao grown in Ecuador’s cloud forests.
206 N 4th Ave, Ann Arbor
Rocket Fizz in Ann Arbor is a wonderland of nostalgic and unique sweets, including a diverse selection of chocolate candies that transport visitors back in time.
306 S Main St Suite 1A, Ann Arbor
VGAN Chocolate (located inside Plum Market) caters to a wide range of tastes with ethical and organic ingredients through their variety of vegan chocolate bars.
375 N. Maple Rd or 3601 Plymouth Rd, Ann Arbor
Zingerman’s Candy Manufactory (located inside Zingerman’s Coffee Co.) offers an exquisite collection of handmade candy, highlighting fresh, flavorful and artisanal confections for a sophisticated palate.
3723 Plaza Dr #5, Ann Arbor