February 14 is a major holiday this year due to a collision of calendar events.
Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day, the annual celebration of love and friendship, marked by cute couples, enthusiastic elementary students… and critics who mock its commercialization. But it turns out that it is also Ash Wednesday, the solemn day of fasting and reflection that marks the beginning of Christianity’s most penitent season.
Why is Ash Wednesday Valentine’s Day this year?
Ash Wednesday is not a fixed date. Its date is tied to Easter Sunday and, for most Christians, this year’s Easter will fall on March 31.
Easter also moves annually, ranging between March 22 and April 25 based on a calendar calculation involving the moon.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops states: “Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the Easter full moon, which is the first full moon that occurs during or after the spring equinox (March 21). ..To find the date for Ash Wednesday, we go back six weeks, leading to the First Sunday of Lent and four days before that is Ash Wednesday.”
This year, that will be February 14.
What happens on Ash Wednesday?
Not all Christians observe Ash Wednesday. Those who do, usually attend an Ash Wednesday church service, where a priest or other minister draws a cross (or at least what is intended to look like one) of ashes on their foreheads. The distribution of ashes highlights human mortality, among other issues.
It is a mandatory day of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. Abstinence restrictions continue on Fridays during Lent, which is the period of repentance and penance leading up to Holy Week celebrations; most significant is their belief in the crucifixion of Jesus and his resurrection from the dead.
Where do ashes come from?
The ashes typically come from palms used on Palm Sunday, which falls a week before Easter, according to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
You can buy ashes, but some churches make them by burning palms from previous years. For example, several parishes and schools in the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago plan to hold palm burning ceremonies this year.
Can Catholics celebrate Valentine’s Day on Ash Wednesday?
In addition to secular celebrations with candy and chocolate hearts, February 14 is also the Feast of Valentine’s Day. But Ash Wednesday, with its requirements of fasting and abstinence, is much more important and should be prioritized, Catholic Bishop Richard Henning of Providence, Rhode Island, said in the diocese’s official newspaper. His predecessor shared a similar message in 2018.
“Ash Wednesday is of a much higher value and deserves all our devotion,” he said. “I respectfully ask that we maintain the unique importance of Ash Wednesday. If you want to wine and dine on Valentine’s Day, do so the Tuesday before. February 13 is Mardi Gras, ‘Fat Tuesday,’ a perfect day to celebrate! and celebrate!”
Who was Valentine’s Day?
The history of Valentine’s Day and Valentine’s Day is a bit murky, but the holiday began as a liturgical feast for a third-century Christian martyr, according to Lisa Bitel, a professor of history and religion at the University of Southern California.
In the Conversation, his article titled “The ‘True’ Saint Valentine Was Not the Patron of Love,” explains that there may have been more than one Saint Valentine executed for his faith in the same time period, but none of them appear to have been executed. been romantic. The emphasis on love seems to have come later.
Associated Press religion coverage is supported through AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.