Chocolate-Gifting History! Ancient Tale Of God, Currency, Status
Image Credit: Chocolate gifts, Shutterstock

The moment one imagines gifts for Valentine's Day or any special day, images of chocolates conjure up. What may surprise many of us is that the tradition of gifting chocolate isn't a contemporary practice. The history of gifting chocolates dates back centuries, with instances of chocolate being uncovered in the Aztec Empire. Chocolate was an insignia of power and prosperity. Its significance doesn't end here, as it was also primarily used in religious rites or as an offering to the gods. Today, as we gear up to celebrate Valentine's Week and herald Chocolate Day on 9 February (in 2023), it spotlights the significance of these sweet, sometimes with a slightly undertones of bitter treats.

The history of presenting chocolates as gifts takes us to the eras of antiquity, with evidence of this ritual being discovered in several cultures, including those in Europe, Africa, and South America. From the archaic times, chocolates have been exchanged as a symbol of fondness, gratefulness, love and good fortune.

Chocolate, a gift to humanity from the God Quetzalcoatl

According to some legends, the God Quetzalcoatl is said to have given chocolate. Quetzalcoatl, an ancient, feathered serpent Lord, was said to have flown throughout the skies raining cocoa beans. It was present to mankind from this divine entity.

Aztec to Mayans era chocolate reverence 

In ancient Mesoamerica, chocolates were considered prized commodities and often used as a currency. The Aztecs and the Mayans were known to exchange chocolates as gifts during holy ceremonies. They also believed that consuming chocolates fetched spiritual and physical sustenance. During the reign of the Aztecs, chocolate was most commonly exchanged as a gesticulation of cordiality.

Chocolate coins, Image Source:Pexels

Chocolate as a token of gift during the 17th century

In the 17th century, chocolate was introduced to Europe and quickly became a popular gift item. These were often referred to as "drinking chocolate" and were believed to have medicinal properties. It was often given to royalty as a sign of respect and reverence. This idea of gifting chocolate spread to the upper classes, who would often give chocolate as a token of appreciation. This tradition of gifting chocolate to those of high social standing spread even further, and it eventually became a tradition to give chocolates to family members and friends.

The 18th-century tradition of gifting 'Drinking Chocolate' 

By the 18th century, the popularity of drinking chocolate had spread throughout Europe, and it was a traditional gift to give on special occasions. There was a substantial and steady growth of such chocolaty practices.   

A glass of hot chocolate, Image Source: Pexels

Chocolate gifts a symbol of expressing subtle emotions

The practice of gifting chocolates became more popular. It was seen as a more personal and intimate way of expressing one's feelings and emotions. Chocolates were associated with love, romance, and friendship and were often exchanged during special occasions like weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, and festivals.

 In the 19th century, chocolate confections became increasingly popular. This was primarily due to the invention of the cocoa press, which allowed for the mass production of cocoa powder and the development of the modern chocolate bar. This made it easier for chocolates to be given as gifts, as they were now more affordable. The tradition of giving chocolates as gifts has been kept alive by confectionery companies, which have created a vast array of chocolates. 

Chocolate bars, Image Source: Pexels

 Evolution in the 20th century

In the 20th century, chocolate gifts became even more popular with the introduction of mass production. Mass-produced chocolates made it easier and more affordable for everyone to give and receive chocolates as a gesture of love and appreciation. Additionally, the emergence of the chocolate industry made it easier for people to choose from a wide variety of chocolates, allowing them to give more unique gifts.

 Gifting chocolates has become an enduring part of our culture and is a great way to express your feelings and emotions. Today, chocolates are still favoured gift items for select occasions. With the steady evolution of the chocolate industry, there is an even wider variety of chocolates to choose from. But what leaves us with awe is the titillating history of chocolate gifting and its rise and transformation over eras.