Written by Laura May Bailey.
These days, the 14th of February is associated with cheesy cards, chocolates, and love songs. But it hasn’t always been this way. Valentine’s Day has a rich history dating back to Roman times and touching on mythology, imprisonment and even, gruesomely, animal sacrifice.
How much do you know about the history of this unofficial holiday?
1. How many Saint Valentines does the Catholic Church recognise?
2. In the third century, Emperor Claudius II of Rome outlawed marriage for young men. A priest named Valentine continued to perform marriages for young couples in secret, until he was discovered and killed. Why did Claudius II outlaw marriage?
a. Due to a disagreement between Claudius II and a religious leader
b. To control the population of Rome
c. To encourage young men to become soldiers
d. To prevent his son marrying a woman he disliked
3. Some people argue that Valentine’s Day is the Christianised version of a Roman celebration, Lupercalia, which was traditionally celebrated on the 15th of February. As well as the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, which Roman God was Lupercalia dedicated to?
4. At the celebration of Lupercalia, a goat and a dog were sacrificed. The goat’s hide was dipped in blood and used to hit women and crops. Why?
a. To prevent disease and illness
b. To encourage fertility
c. To draw the attention of Cupid
d. It’s not known
5. The idea of Valentine’s Day as a day of love may have become cemented because of a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer describing the gathering and mating of a particular type of animal in early spring. In Chaucer’s time, the 14th of February was thought to be the start of which animal’s mating season?
6. The first recorded Valentine’s Day poem dates from 1415. It was written by Charles, Duke of Orléans, to his wife while he was imprisoned after being captured during a French civil war between the Armagnac family and Burgundy family. Imprisoned for 25 years, Charles never saw his wife again, as she died before his release. Where was Charles held prisoner?
a. The Tower of London, London
b. Grand Châtelet, Paris
c. The Bastille, Paris
d. Prague Castle Dungeon, Prague
7. The oldest surviving Valentine’s Day message in English was sent from a woman called Margery Brews to her husband, John Paston. From what year does it date?
8. Which Shakespeare play includes the lines; “To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day, All in the morning betime, And I a maid at your window, To be your Valentine.”?
b. Romeo and Juliet
c. The Tempest
9. Although pre-printed Valentine’s cards were first available in the 1700s, it was in Victorian Britain that they became easily available and affordable due to mass production. By the mid-1820s, it is estimated that how many Valentine’s messages were circulated within London?
10. Some Victorian Valentine’s Day cards were less than romantic. They were designed to insult or offend the recipient and were often aimed at ridiculing a man’s profession or a woman’s appearance. At the beginning of the twentieth century, they took an even more misogynistic tone, as these spiteful messages targeted Suffragettes campaigning for women’s voting rights. What are these unromantic Valentine’s commonly known as?
a. Venomous Valentines
b. Vicious Valentines
c. Vinegar Valentines
d. Vulgar Valentines
Since Roman times, it has been traditional to celebrate love and romance in early spring. The approach to this celebration has changed significantly and would in some cases be unrecognisable from our modern day engagement in commercialism and social media posts.
However, there are signs that the meaning of Valentine’s Day is beginning to shift again. From Galentine’s Day, to anti-Valentine’s Day parties, you can make the day what you want!
Answers: a, c, b, b, d, a, d, d, c, c
How did you do? Let us know!
Laura May Bailey is a master’s student of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester. As well as having a passion for museums, she is also interested in traveling, history, and literature. You can find her on Instagram here: @laura_may_bee