Chocolate and love have been associated since the dawn of history. The Aztecs believed the cacao plant was a gift of love from their god, Quetzalcoatl. They believed cacao had mystical powers that helped romance and sexual prowess.
The Mayans considered chocolate an important aspect of their marriage ceremonies; the bride and groom would down chocolate drinks in preparation for their wedding night. Throughout the Caribbean, chocolate was considered a love potion.
Richard Cadbury of Birmingham, England, got into the chocolate business in 1861. One of his first ideas: selling chocolate in heart-shaped boxes for Valentine's Day. More than 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are now sold each year for Valentine's Day.
But chocolate is not an essential ingredient for Valentine's Day. How you express your love to your spouse isn't as important as the fact that you do, and that you do it in a way that your spouse feels loved.
A romantic evening without chocolate is possible and doesn't need to cost much. Patrick Pesci, of Kansas State University, says you can reduce the expense of dining out by having appetizers and drinks at home before leaving and having dessert at home afterward.
Dr. Pepper Schwartz adds a twist to this idea: look through cookbooks together and pick the most outrageous appetizer and dessert you can find, then make them together. Schwartz says, “Cooking together can be a very intimate, even sensual experience.”
Schwartz says a bit of fantasy can also be added by dressing up and pretending it's your first date together, or that it's a blind date, this is the first time you've ever met. He picks her up and brings a small gift to impress her. She wears something a bit glamorous to attract him. She “invites” him in for the appetizers they've already prepared together. After dinner she can, once again, invite him in for dessert.
Candles and flowers can set the mood for the appetizers, and soft lights and romantic music might turn your bedroom into a great setting for the dessert.
If you do decide to eat at home, make it special. CoolestDates.com suggests you go through cookbooks and pick a dinner you've never tried. Shop together for the ingredients and some side dishes you both like but rarely have. Prepare dinner together. CoolestDates suggests making it even more unforgettable: have a “backwards dinner (start with dessert, then a main course, then salad, then soup, and finish with an appetizer).”
If you want something simple, try a picnic in your living room. Schwartz suggests creating a picnic basket with your favorite finger foods and delicacies. Include everything you'd need if you were going out in the wilds for you meal so you don't have to get up and go to the kitchen.
Put out a blanket, light candles and get a CD with romantic music and a background of the sound of waves crashing on the shore. Putting a dozen candles on a low table can create the illusion of a campfire.
The goal is having fun together. Successful marriages become joint histories filled with countless shared memories of good times, separated by the mundane work and occasional usual problems we all face.
Valentine's Day provides an opportunity to have some special fun. So make the most of it – with or without chocolate.
©2014, All Rights Reserved. James Sheridan’s website is marriagedoneright.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.