Giving a Gift on Valentine’s Day? Skip the Chocolate. Go Right for the Scent.

Gift-giving on Valentine’s Day has so many layers. Are you looking for a gift to give your spouse, someone you’ve been dating a while or is the relationship a newer romantic interest? 

You could also be shopping for a friend who’s had a difficult time lately and you want to cheer them up, or a best friend that has been with you through thick and thin and you want to show appreciation for their support.

Maybe you’re looking to show your son or daughter that love on Valentine’s Day isn’t just a commercialized version of romantic love.

Whatever, the reason, there are always a few gifts that seem to go hand-in-hand with Valentine’s Day.

Ever wonder why chocolates, roses, and cards became the go-to Valentine's Day gifts? Me too! Here's a little bit of background on how that came to be.

The History of Valentine’s Day

According to National Geographic, the history of Valentine’s Day comes with some intrigue and mystery. Various stories from early AD show its roots in a Roman festival of fertility held from February 13-15th. The description in this article from the History Channel reads like an ancient episode of The Bachelor. It was definitely rated PG-13 or higher!

There’s also history about St. Valentine who was executed for marrying young people in secret after there was a ban on marriage to prepare for war. His execution date? February 14th. Ultimately, it was the Catholic Pope in 496 who deemed this day officially St. Valentine’s Day.

A More Familiar Picture of Valentine's Day

Today, Valentine's Day celebrations definitely look much different than their origins. Although, it’s difficult to find where and how the transition happened, it's moved from just fertility and marriage to showing love by giving gifts and expressing love in words through valentines.

In the middle ages and into the 1400's, famous poems refer to St. Valentine's Day in a romantic way. There are historical documents of poems and gifts given from kings and dukes to their wives or love interest at the time.

The article from the History Channel shares that Esther Howland is referred to as the “Mother of the valentine”. In the 1840s, she was making and selling valentines in mass—cards with real lace and ribbon. However, it wouldn’t be until 1916 when Hallmark valentine cards were first seen on shelves.

Valentine’s Day in 2023

Far from the days of just writing a poem as a gift for Valentine’s Day, Americans alone are estimated to spend $25.9 billion dollars this year according to the facts listed by Wallet Hub. Gifts include jewelry, concert tickets, flowers and candy. Many will go out to eat, spend money for a babysitter, and create surprises for their loved one.

No matter how varied the options for gifts become though, chocolate and roses always seem to be the anchor picturesque gifts for the holiday. And there is good reason for it.

The Science Behind Chocolate and Roses

A small but powerful research project out of Cornell University shows there’s an increased positivity people feel when evaluating roses and chocolates as it gets closer to February 14th than during any other time of the year. That’s right, they feel more love when they see roses and chocolates in February than if they did in, let’s say, June. 

This is the power of association our brain uses constantly. This study states that since people don’t view chocolate and roses “simply as everyday objects” they can be more closely associate them with love, increasing levels of oxytocin—the love hormone—when they are received.

Another interesting study was done by a university in the UK with the help of a flower delivery service. They found that each person who was given a gift of either flowers or chocolate had increased levels of that love hormone, oxytocin, after the gift was received.

Oxytocin, when increased in the brain, sends love messages to your body. It’s the feeling of love and trust—that warm, fuzzy feeling. So, when these levels increased, the people in this study actually felt more loved just from getting chocolate or flowers as a gift.

But, chocolate and flowers aren’t the only way to increase those feelings of love.

The Power of Scent

Did you know certain scents also increase feelings of love and happiness? 

There is more and more research showing how the scent of certain essential oils can reduce cortisol, the hormone associated with stress. They can increase levels of oxytocin and serotonin, the love and happiness hormones. And they can trigger emotional responses—positive feelings associated with childhood and safety. 

[You can read more about scent memory from a previous blog post, “It’s Candle Season For a Reason! Why We Love Fall Candle Scents”.]

Some specific scents that “significantly increased” oxytocin in a recent study included

  • clary sage
  • lavender
  • neroli
  • sandalwood
  • jasmine
  • chamomile

Many of these can be found combined with other scents in candles that will lift spirits naturally and increase those feelings of love.

Another study showed increased relaxation from the scents of

  • lavender
  • rosemary
  • rose
  • geranium

Combine these scents with the scents that increase happy hormones and you have a winning combination for anyone in your life. 

Because who doesn’t need more feelings of love and relaxation in their life?

As you can see, scent is powerful! And if you're going to spend money this Valentine's Day, don't you want to know that something you give is actually going to work? 

So maybe I was wrong—don’t skip the chocolate. Or the flowers when you’re giving a gift on Valentine’s Day. 

But do add in a candle or two so that those feelings of love will last even after February 14th. Even after the chocolates are eaten. Even after the flowers must be thrown away. 

Because the gift of a candle is one that keeps on giving every time it’s lit. 

To make it easy, here are some recommendations on Bungalow candles that have some of those feel-good scents from the studies:

From the Classic Collection check out Neroli & Fig or Soriée & Rose for scents that will uplift.

From the Kitchen Collection, Lavender and Lily Leaf will both help create calm and relaxation.

And our signature candle, Spokane Sweater Weather, is made with the scent of sandalwood (shown to increase oxytocin!) and is found to appeal to men and woman alike.

Now, you can enjoy and share the science behind Valentine’s Day gifts and be intentional when you choose yours.