Getting Ashes on Valentine’s Day?

black cross drawn inside heart.
Photo credit: Clare Calzada

In what one might consider God’s sense of irony, Valentine’s Day is starting off the season of Lent, a 40-day period when many Christians start to prepare for Easter Sunday, which also coincidentally falls on April Fool’s Day. No joke – check your calendars.

The last time these two days coincided was in 1945, Ned McGrath, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Detroit in Chicago, told local press.

So if you’re thinking of giving your significant other chocolates or a steak-dinner, you might want to ask to if they’ve given up anything for Lent first. During the 40-days of penance, Catholics often choose something to give up until Easter or take up an act of kindness.

Ash Wednesday requires practicing. Catholic adults between the ages of 18 and 59, fast by eating only one full meal or two smaller meals and abstain from eating meat (unless they are pregnant, ill or in a difficult living situations). The same obligations hold true for March 30, or “Good Friday”.

Contrary to common belief, churchgoers are not required to receive ashes on their forehead at a penitential service, only recommended to.

However, if you already have plans to go out tonight, try seafood, Italian or vegetarian restaurants. Or for those on a budget, here are some fun, meatless dishes to purchase at your local market or try to make at home: fish tacos, spinach lasagna, sushi, fried tofu, black bean enchiladas and kale or jersey salad. For those with a lighter pallet, SoupPlantation may be your next, romantic destination.

The expression “Fishy Friday” comes from the practice of eating fish in place of meat on Fridays throughout Lent. It is also the reason the sales commonly go up on McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish.

While a secular holiday today, Valentine’s Day has roots in Catholicism as it was named after St. Valentine, a third-century martyr.

Regardless of whether you’ll be observing any traditions, religious or otherwise, on the 14th, the world will surely be feeling the love.