Christmas, Human Sacrifice and Chocolate

What would Christmas be without chocolate? I, for one, like to begin my Christmas morning seeking out my favorite chocolates from the numerous See’s Candy boxes lying around my parents’ house, for breakfast. Don’t tell my parents.


The word chocolate originates from the Aztec cacahuatl, “black nut.” The species name, cacao, from the Mayan language, is a reference to the tree, fruit and drink that was made from it. The Mayans regarded the cacao as a holy tree, both life sustaining but also as a portal to death.

The Aztecs often called cocolate yollotl, eztil – “heart, blood.” In turn, they called the still beating hearts ripped from the chests of their live human sacrifices cacahuatl – “cocoa fruit” or “Gods’ food.”


Just before a victim was sacrificed they were given a drink called itzpacaltl, “water with which obsidian blades are washed.” It was used to intoxicate the victim into an ecstatic state.

Shamans or sacrificial priests took the sacrificial knives and washed off the blood from the last victim in water. They then combined it with chocolate and pumpkin. It is said that the drink had the following effect: “He became nearly unconscious and forgot what was said to him. Then his good mood came back and he started to dance agaain. It is believed that, bewitched by the drink, he gave himself, full of joy and happiness before death.” – Diego de Duran

Our first Christmas-centric chocolates were produced in the guise of Father Christmas. Even if it is only symbolic, one could argue this practice is a nod to the past.

Keep all this in mind next time you gleefully decapitate and devour your chocolate Santa.


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