Valentine’s Day Falls on Ash Wednesday; the Beginning of the Christian Season of Lent.
SAN ANGELO, TX -- For many Christians, Lent is a period of prayer, fasting, and alms giving in preparation for Easter. The ascetical practices of self-denial on this day are intended to foster a deeper commitment to faith.
The ashes used for this day are the burned remnants of palms from Palm Sunday the year prior.
Ash Wednesday is characterized by placing ashes on the forehead, with the minister reminding the congregant that “you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
The ashes also symbolize turning away from sin. This is rooted in the Jewish custom of sprinkling ashes on the head as a sign of repentance.
However, this year, coinciding with the beginning of Lent is Valentine’s Day, traditionally a day of excess, when gifts of flowers and candy are lavished upon those special people in our lives.
The irony of excess and self-denial seem to collide on Ash Wednesday.
However, much like Christmas, Valentine’s Day has been hijacked from a time when the day had religious overtones.
Valentine’s Day was named for Saint Valentine, a righteous man who was brutally martyred for performing marriages for those who were forbidden to marry, and for ministering to Christians who were persecuted under the Roman Empire.
There’s not much fun in that, but in later years the holiday came to symbolize romance.
Bishop Michael Sis of the Catholic Diocese of San Angelo pointed out that this is the first time since 1945 that Ash Wednesday takes place on Valentine’s Day. He said, “For those Christians who observe Ash Wednesday, my recommendation is to keep the traditional disciplines of fasting and abstinence. Maybe you could take your loved one out for a nice dinner on Tuesday night, and then go to church together on Wednesday. Valentine’s Day is about love, and love doesn’t require candy.”