Valentines Day table scene with a selection of fun desserts and sweets. Above view on a dark wood background. Love and hearts theme.

Real sugar has been enjoyed throughout the centuries and remains a central element in modern expressions of love, including Valentine’s Day.

There is no better time than Valentine’s Day to celebrate our loved ones and the bonds we share. For more than 100 years, real sugar has taken center stage on Valentine’s Day to help us celebrate our treasured relationships, whether it’s showing our appreciation for friends and family or connecting with that special someone.

Sweet Origins of Valentine’s Day

While the roots of this sweet holiday are unclear, the holiday likely originated from an ancient Roman fertility festival. Valentine’s Day namesake may also come from the ancient Romans when Emperor Claudius II executed two men, both named Valentine, on Feb. 14 of different years in the third century. Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day in A.D. 496.

Fortunately, the holiday grew sweeter over the centuries. Valentine’s Day became associated with romance thanks to Canterbury Tales author Geoffery Chaucer, who first specifically linked the holiday with love birds. In his 1382 poem The Parliament of Fowls, a large group of birds gather on “Seynt Valentynes day” to choose their mates.  Other lovestruck poets followed suit and helped make the holiday a celebration of love by giving handmade paper cards with rhyming verses to the objects of their affections. By the mid-19th century, Valentine’s Day had hit its stride and become a firmly established tradition in the U.S. and Britain. In 1913, Hallmark Cards produced their first Valentine’s Day card, representing a key development in the commercialization of the holiday.

Sugar’s Role in Romantic Gestures

Colorful Candy Conversation Hearts for Valentine's Day on a teal background

No valentine, be it store-bought or handmade, is complete without a sweet treat to go with it. Sugar has been a symbol of love in America since the early 1700s, when colonists exchanged hard, often heart-shaped sugar, maple or honey candies with simple words carved on them along with their handmade valentines. The tradition of using candy hearts to convey romantic messages evolved into the famous Sweetheart “conversation hearts.” These iconic pastel candy conversation starters stamped with sweet phrases of love and friendship, have long been the most popular and bestselling non-chocolate Valentine’s Day candy since their debut in 1866. As times changed, so have the sugary one-line expressions of love. The original mottos of “Be Mine” and “Kiss Me” remain popular, but some of the other phrases on the conversation hearts have not withstood the test of time, such as “Fax Me.”

Sweet Indulgences

Of the 58 million pounds of chocolate purchased during the week of Valentine’s Day, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, Hershey’s Kisses and M&Ms are at the top of the shopping list, according to annual research from sweets retailer Chocolate has been a grand romantic gesture and symbol of love ever since it was used in ancient Mayan wedding ceremonies 2,000 years ago. It has been considered an aphrodisiac.) However, it didn’t become popular throughout Western Europe until the 16th century.

By the mid-1800s, chocolate had become more affordable to England’s middle class and its popularity was soaring. In 1847, Valentine’s Day was celebrated in most of the English-speaking world, and British chocolate maker J.S. Fry & Sons produced the first modern-day chocolate bar. A few years later, the company sold the first filled chocolates with flavored centers. However, its rival company, Cadbury, would ultimately connect Valentine’s Day with chocolate. Richard Cadbury is largely credited with coining chocolate as the symbolic candy of Valentine’s Day since he began selling his chocolates in heart-shaped boxes in 1861. Mr. Cadbury decorated each box by hand! The boxes were popular symbols of love long after the holiday ended and were often used to hold love letters after the chocolates were eaten. The idea caught on globally, and now, more than 40 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are sold each year on Valentine’s Day. In the U.S., Milton Hershey made significant strides in commercializing chocolate with the invention of Kisses in 1907, and Hershey now produces 70 million kisses daily.

Sugar and the Language of Love

Not only do we associate the sweet taste of sugar with all our favorite Valentine’s Day treats, but we also use it as an endearment for the people we are most fond of. Sugar has been an integral part of the language of love since the 13th century, when “sweetheart” was first used to refer to both lovers and loved ones.

While the Oxford English Dictionary traces “honey” as a term of endearment back to the 14th century, the use of “sugar” as an endearment didn’t make an appearance until the 1930s. (Folks set their sweet nothings to music not long after when The Four Tops released “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” in 1965. “Sugar, Sugar,” the catchy 1969 chart-topper by The Archies, sold nearly one million copies, has been streamed over 300 million times on Spotify and YouTube and is widely considered the best bubblegum pop song of all time. Other memorable sweet beats followed over the years, including “Pour Some Sugar on Me” by British rock band Def Leppard in 1987 and “Sugar” by Maroon 5 in 2015.

Sugar Brings Us Together

Sugar and love have been synonymous since the 14th century and Valentine’s Day this year will be no exception. Real sugar has been enjoyed throughout the centuries and remains a central element in modern expressions of love. This beloved ingredient enables us to give the best gift of all for Valentine’s Day, which is time spent with loved ones. Whether you are baking with children and passing on cherished traditional recipes, enjoying a delicious dessert with family and friends, or savoring a special treat with your significant other, sugar brings us together for unforgettable moments. That’s a cause for celebration!



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