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Musings on Love and Chocolate

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and even though I don’t do anything to celebrate it, it’s hard to ignore because of all the chocolates and other Valentine’s candy in stores. I don’t go out of my way to buy those candies, but I do like Dove dark chocolates, and sometimes I’ll get the holiday-specific ones.


And while it’s fun to read the messages inside the Dove chocolate wrappers, I sometimes question them. For example, a recent one read, “The best things in life are chocolate.”


Now, I’m not saying that chocolate isn’t great, but does it qualify as the best thing in life? And then I also started wondering, why is chocolate so prominent for a holiday about love?


Best things in life?

I have to admit that when I was younger, I would have been inclined to agree with the idea that chocolate was just about the best thing. Chocolate was always there for me, never gave me funny looks or asked anything of me, and unfailingly gave me something to savor. What could be better than that?


Sarah McLachlan has one answer in her song “Ice Cream”: “Your love is better than chocolate, better than anything else that I’ve tried.”


I doubt many people would argue that love is truly one of the greatest things in life. (Though according to Miracle Max in The Princess Bride, a mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich is pretty close.) But if we don’t feel that we’re the recipient of such love, it’s easy to turn to chocolate instead.


Chocolate as an expression of love

The other reason chocolate is an obvious substitute for love is because we use it so often to express love and affection, particularly around Valentine’s Day. So, I decided to poke around and see if I could find an explanation for why chocolate and love are linked.


Probably the earliest example is from the Mayans. Mayans used cacao (what chocolate is made of) in many important ceremonies, including marriage. What they used is very different than what we think of as chocolate, but the roots are there.


Then some people thought that chocolate was an aphrodisiac. This doesn’t seem to be true, but people still like the idea.


And once chocolate started becoming mass-produced, it became more accessible to the general public. Richard Cadbury was one of the first to do this, and when he made a chocolate box that had cupids and roses on it, people automatically connected the chocolates to love.


Chocolate isn’t the only option

Since chocolate has all these connections to love, it may be tempting to turn to chocolate for consolation if you find yourself alone on Valentine’s Day (or other days). But that’s not the only option.


While you may not have the romantic love you’d hope for, you can focus on your love for yourself. If you’re feeling a bit down, perhaps you can write yourself a love letter, expounding on everything about you that is wonderful. This isn’t something we’re used to doing, but it can be a powerful experience. It may even reduce your craving for chocolate.


Or think about the love of friends and family, or pets, or things you love doing. Love comes in many varieties, not just romantic, and you don’t need chocolate as a substitute.


This isn’t to say that chocolate isn’t a wonderful thing, because it certainly is. Nor am I advising anyone to go without chocolate. I simply suggest that perhaps it’s not the absolute best thing in life and that instead of automatically turning to candy, looking at those other areas first may be even sweeter.


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