From the National Confectioners Association and staff reports
Now that we’ve all gotten over the sad news that the ubiquitous conversation hearts are a no-show for Valentine’s Day – the company that made them was sold and the new owners didn’t have a chance to get the candy made in time – we can take solace in knowing that Northeast Ohio has lots of candy that’s made and sold right here, conversation hearts or not.
b.a. Sweetie Candy Company, which bills itself as the largest in the country, sells a dizzying assortment of candy from its sprawling warehouse/retail store on Brookpark Road. The company recently opened a much smaller, but no less impressive, store in the Pinecrest retail center in Orange Village. Head over there to find all the candies (again, except conversation hearts) from your childhood. Did we really eat this stuff? Yes, yes we did. And it was great.
Malley’s Chocolates is another NEO mainstay. Watch for chocolate coated fruits closer to Valentine’s Day, but their chocolate bars, Pecan BillyBobs and Malley Ohs! have been satisfying sweet tooths for decades.
Mitchell’s fine chocolates has been serving Clevelanders for 80 years. Their coconut haystacks and honeycomb chips are an exclusive treat to the local favorite.
We may never know which saint is celebrated on Valentine’s Day, since at least three recognized saints bear the name “Valentine.” That said, it’s likely that the day was intended to honor Valentine of Rome, a priest who was executed for his actions against the Roman Empire and buried on February 14.
Saint Valentine, or Valentinus, was a priest who lived during the period of the Roman Empire. He was imprisoned and sentenced to death for performing the marriage ceremonies of young soldiers after Emperor Claudius II made it a crime for young men to marry, believing single men made better soldiers. During his imprisonment, Saint Valentine is said to have healed the daughter of his jailer, with whom he was possibly in love. Before he was put to death, Valentine wrote her a farewell letter and signed it, “Your Valentine.”
About 200 years after the death of Valentine of Rome, Pope Gelasius named February 14th St. Valentine’s Day. Some believe that the date was chosen not because of Saint Valentine’s alleged burial date, but as an alternative to a mid-February pagan holiday known as Lupercalia, a fertility festival in which young, unmarried women placed their names into an urn and bachelors would choose a woman to be paired with for the rest of the year – an early form of dating that sometimes resulted in marriage.
Despite the fact that Saint Valentine was executed for facilitating forbidden unions and that the pagan holiday that allegedly inspired the date also paired off couples, the romantic connotation of Valentine’s Day didn’t emerge until the Middle Ages. By the 18th century in England, February 14 had become a day when people expressed their love for one another by exchanging presents, handmade cards (known as valentines) and, of course, sweet treats! Around the world today, there are many different popular traditions associated with the day.
Here are some other legends associated with the day:
- The first written reference to romance and St. Valentine’s Day was provided by Chaucer in 1382:
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
In modern English: For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird came to choose his mate.
- Americans began exchanging valentines in the early 1700s. These small hand-made cards were sometimes accompanied by hard, often heart-shaped, sugar, maple or honey candies with simple words carved on them. The first mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards were introduced in 1847.
- In the 1800s, physicians commonly advised their lovelorn patients to eat chocolate to calm themselves and mend their broken hearts.