Giving chocolate as a Christmas gift: a gourmet tradition

Leonidas Christmas gift

Since time immemorial - yes, really, that long - people have exchanged gifts to mark the winter solstice. But where does this generous custom originate from? And why, over the years, has chocolate become the quintessential Christmas gift to mark the end-of-year festivities? Today, Master Chocolatier Leonidas brings you the wonderful history of this gourmet tradition

Why does Christmas rhyme with chocolate?

Once upon a time there was a log. And not just any log! It was a beautiful, big log, cut from the trunk of an ageing fruit tree which during its entire life had generously yielded beautiful, sweet and fragrant fruits.

From the Middle Ages, the log was placed in the fireplace during the longest night of the year: the winter solstice. According to tradition, the log was burned as slowly as possible to bring prosperity to the home.

But in the 19th century, disaster struck! Mr Coal and the Electricity fairy arrived to disrupt the established ritual. The traditional fireplace gave way to cast iron stoves and radiators to heat homes… but our log wasn’t finished with yet!

Helped by Master Chocolatiers, it transformed itself into a delicious cake shared over Christmas dinner. This one looks like a piece of tree trunk, covered with a delicious chocolate coating.

Thus the tradition of chocolate as a Christmas gift was born, and it lives on today.   

When did the tradition of Christmas gifts begin?

In ancient Rome, the winter solstice was celebrated during the Saturnalia festival. Up until 21 December, the days get shorter and nights longer. From 25 December, the days start to get longer again. It is this return to the life of nature that is celebrated. The French word for Christmas, ‘Noël’ comes from the Latin natalis, meaning ‘birth’. To mark these festivities, the Romans exchanged gifts: Christmas gifts. Christians would subsequently associate this date with the birth of Jesus.

As for chocolate, it came to us from the Mayans and Aztecs of Mexico and Central America. They used cocoa beans as currency. During their 16th century conquests, the Spanish discovered this xocoatl and subsequently introduced it to Europe. Chocolate arrived in France at the royal court in the 17th century. It was a luxury product, and the preserve of a small elite. It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century and industrialisation that it became more widely available. It was still considered to be a sophisticated delicacy, however, and so people exchanged it on big occasions, such as a Christmas gift.

Child opening his Leonidas advent calendar

What chocolates should you give at Christmas?

Help children count down to Christmas with our Advent calendar. Each day from 1 to 24 December, they open a little window to discover a different delicious chocolate.

Leonidas gift set for the Christmas tree

When it comes to decorating your Christmas tree, don’t forget our Christmas baubles. Gold, silver, red and green: our chocolate decorations look as good as they taste. At work, give our beautiful Christmas tree-shaped box of chocolates pride of place on your desk. And treat your colleagues with a Christmas ballotin filled with your choice of favourites.

Christmas morning and the time for gifts is finally here! Discover our full range of gourmet boxes. There’s something for all your family. Which of the children will get the Leo teddy bear with his belly full of chocolate balls? Who will be lucky enough to see their name written on the tower of boxes of Leonidas chocolates? Which fortunate gourmet will get to taste the Manon Lover collection?

Not sure what your distant relatives might like? Pop a Leonidas gift voucher in an envelope along with your season’s greetings.


Leonidas gift certificate


Want to buy your Christmas gifts now rather than leaving it to the last minute? Pick up your Christmas assortments from your nearest Leonidas shop or order online from our e-shop.