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Chocolate, a delectable treat that transcends borders, has been an integral part of various cultures across the globe. Beyond its luscious taste, chocolate plays a significant role in traditions and festivals, making it a symbol of celebration and happiness in different nations.
Chocolate, a universal delight, has woven itself into the fabric of diverse cultures worldwide. India’s celebrations during Diwali and Raksha Bandhan, Switzerland’s prestigious chocolate festivals, Mexico’s reverence for chocolate during the Day of the Dead, and Japan’s unique Valentine’s Day and White Day traditions all demonstrate the profound significance of chocolate in various societies.
In this article, Zeba Kohli, chocolatier, entrepreneur, and author shares the rich history of chocolate in four countries, highlighting their unique customs and festivals revolving around this delightful indulgence.
India: Sweet Melodies of Festivals and Chocolate
India, a land of vibrant festivities, celebrates its love for chocolate on various occasions. Diwali, the festival of lights, witnesses the exchange of sweets, and chocolates have found their way into the traditional ‘mithai’ offerings. Families and friends exchange chocolate gift boxes as a symbol of prosperity and joy during Diwali. Furthermore, the festival of Raksha Bandhan, which honors the bond between brothers and sisters, involves the exchange of gifts. Chocolates have become a modern addition to these gifts, symbolising the sweetness of sibling love. Additionally, Valentine’s Day has gained popularity in India, and chocolates have become a favored gift for expressing affection and
Switzerland: The Chocolate Wonderland
Switzerland, often dubbed the “Chocolate Capital of the World,” boasts a long-standing tradition of crafting exquisite chocolates. The Swiss have been perfecting the art of chocolate-making for centuries, and their chocolate festivals are a testament to their love for this delicacy. The Salon du Chocolat in Zurich attracts chocolate enthusiasts from around the world, where they can savor a vast array of artisanal chocolates and attend workshops conducted by renowned chocolatiers. Additionally, the Swiss celebrate Chocolatiers’ Day, a national event dedicated to honoring the master chocolatiers and their creations. This festival showcases the rich diversity of Swiss chocolate-making techniques and flavours, making it a delightful experience for both locals and tourists.
Mexico: Where Chocolate is said to be Originated
Chocolate has deep roots in Mesoamerican culture, with Mexico being the birthplace of chocolate as we know it today. The ancient Mayans and Aztecs revered cocoa beans, and the drink made from them was considered a sacred elixir. In present-day Mexico, chocolate remains an essential element of various festivities. During the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) celebrations, families prepare and share “chocolate caliente,” a hot chocolate drink infused with spices like cinnamon and chili, to honor their deceased loved ones. Chocolate is also an integral part of the Christmas traditions in
Mexico, with “chocolate conchas” being a favorite sweet treat during the holiday season.
Japan: Embracing Chocolate on Valentine’s Day
In Japan, Valentine’s Day has become synonymous with the exchange of chocolates. However, the tradition is unique in this nation, as it is women who give chocolates to men, including friends, colleagues, and loved ones. There are two types of chocolates given on this day: “Giri-choco,” which is obligatory chocolate given to male friends and coworkers, and “Honmei-choco,” which is reserved for expressing romantic feelings towards a significant other. One month later, on March 14, Japan celebrates “White Day,” where men reciprocate the gesture by giving gifts, typically chocolates, to the women who gifted them on Valentine’s Day. This tradition has become an integral part of Japanese culture, fostering connections and expressions of affection through the medium of chocolates.
It is apparent that chocolate gifting is for different reasons in different cultures. It is also an important observation that the chocolates consumed & gifted are significantly varied in different cultures and different countries.