[Valentine's Day]

Today is St. Valentine's Day. It is said that Valentine's Day is a day to commemorate the martyrdom of St. Valentine, who was martyred in the 3rd century under the persecution of the Roman emperor. During the time when soldiers were forbidden to marry for fear of demoralizing the warriors, St. Valentine was executed for defying this prohibition and performing a wedding ceremony for lovers. It is now celebrated with great reverence as the patron saint of lovers.

The custom of giving chocolates on Valentine's Day began in the late 19th century, when the long-established British chocolate company Cadbury sold beautifully painted chocolate boxes for gift-giving. In Japan, there are various theories, but it seems to have started with corporate advertisements and campaigns. There was no sales strategy specifically targeting women, but since many of the chocolate buyers were women, the uniquely Japanese custom of "women confessing their love and giving chocolates as gifts" on "Love Day" became firmly established.

Now, chocolate is made from cacao nuts that have undergone fermentation, roasting, and grinding. The first people to use cacao beans from the cacao fruit were most likely the indigenous Olmec people of "Mesoamerica," the oldest civilization in the Americas. Cacao was first cultivated and was prized not only for beverages, but also as divine offerings and paper money. In Mesoamerica, cacao paste, made by grinding cacao into a powder and adding spices and flavorings such as cornmeal, chili pepper, and vanilla to counteract the bitterness of chocolate, was consumed mainly as a luxury item, for medicinal and tonic purposes.

When cacao was introduced to Europe in the 16th century, people added sugar and milk to eliminate the bitter taste of cacao and substituted easily available flavors such as pepper, cinnamon, and rose oil for chili peppers. From a bitter to a sweet drink, chocolate became a luxury item among European royalty and aristocracy around the 17th century.

Valentine's Day is a day to celebrate love with lovers and family members in many countries. According to a survey, there are more and more people who prepare various kinds of chocolates for others, such as "self chocolate," "friend chocolate," "care chocolate," "obligation chocolate," and "true feeling chocolate," but "family chocolate" eaten with family members is the most common, at 42% of the total. Let's all enjoy our own Valentine's Day and chocolate.