… A Partnership Made in Heaven!
We take it for granted that Christmas and chocolate are perfect partners, but it must have started somewhere!
… Which came first? Christmas or chocolate?
First of all, Christmas as a religious occasion has been celebrated in December (the darkest month of the year) since around the fourth century.
Meanwhile, chocolate has its ‘roots’ back in the Mayan civilisation, whose people believed the cacao seeds from the cacao tree (from which chocolate is made) were so valuable they were used as a form of currency.
Hot chocolate – but not as we know it!
Originally the seeds were prepared as a drink but it would not have tasted like our yummy hot chocolate we enjoy today. Back then it would have been a bitter, frothy liquid, served with spices or corn puree.
Chocolate in history
Chocolate made its way to Europe during the sixteenth century, when sugar was added to it. It became really popular with the ruling classes.
It is thought the first chocolate house opened in London in 1657, where folks could mingle as they enjoyed their treat.
During the Industrial Revolution, advances in the chocolate industry made the substance cheaper to manufacture. By the mid 1800s, some chocolate makers were selling boxes of chocolates to the public.
And during the two World Wars, soldiers received chocolate as part of their rations.
So how did it become associated with Christmas?
Well, apart from the obvious connection of it being the perfect present of course, there were other traditions which helped the two form a foodie marriage.
One connection is the chocolate log. During the nineteenth century, when heating appliances start appearing in the domestic home, logs of wood became more decorative rather than useful. Talented pasty chefs came up with pastry logs with chocolate icing that looked like tree bark.
Other traditions inspired by chocolate include chocolate coins, while modern ones include chocolate Santas, candy houses and more. Chocolate is also presented as a traditional festive gift around the world, in Mexico and Italy, for example.