When Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine's Day, love and death compete

Eugene Diamond dipped chocolate-dipped strawberries at his family's sweet shop in a small town outside Kansas City on Tuesday morning. It was the day before Valentine's Day, and all chocolates were in high demand.

Mr. who follows the Catholic religion. For Diamond, another deadline looms: this year, Valentine's Day falls on Ash Wednesday, a day traditionally dedicated to penance and fasting. Starting that day, Mr. Diamond, his wife and eight children will serve up sweets until Easter, which falls on March 31 this year.

39 year old Mr. Diamond was at the shop on Tuesday to prepare desserts for tasting. “I have to try these today because I won't get a chance to try them tomorrow,” he said.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, marked by sacrifice and holiness. At church services across the country, priests sprinkle crosses on parishioners' foreheads and mutter, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The day is a reminder of human mortality and the beginning of a season that culminates in the joyous celebration of Easter. Catholics give up meat on Ash Wednesday, and the Church asks people aged 18 to 59 to eat one full meal, plus two small meals “not equal to a full meal.”

This puts it in tough competition with Valentine's Day, a celebration of romantic love often marked by rich food, wine and candy.

For Catholics and others who follow the Christian liturgical calendar, the abbreviation presents a dilemma. Across the country, clergy and their flocks are finding ways to eat their molten chocolate cake, and that too — not in one day.

The two holidays fell on the same day in 2018 and will do so again in 2029. After that, Catholics, Episcopalians, and others will have no strange overlap until 2170, some liturgy experts said. (Ash Wednesday is associated with Easter, the “moving feast,” the date of which is determined by the lunar calendar.)

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“Valentine's Day has a mood of celebratory joy, and Ash Wednesday has a very solemn mood,” said Gabriel Girgis, 33, a Catholic and postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Ethics and Public Policy who lives in South Bend.

Ms. Girgis' older children attend a Catholic school that celebrates Valentine's Day in the classroom a day early to avoid conflict. His family attends Wednesday Mass and a simple soup dinner. She and her husband will celebrate Valentine's Day on Thursday at Jesús Latin Grill and Tequila Bar, a Latin American restaurant.

Online, Catholics and others connected and had fun.

“Darling, I want to take you to a small meal that, if combined with another small meal, should not overpower your big meal,” said one message widely shared on social media.

Others pointed out that “Valentine's Day cannot be spelled without Lent.”

In Austin, an Episcopal priest serving students at the University of Texas, Rev. Noah Stansbury ordered custom candy hearts that read “Dust 2 Dust,” “Life is Short” and “You're So Loved.” On Wednesday, he said he would send them off at a “go-go ash” station on campus, offering passers-by a quick prayer and the usual crucifix of ashes on their foreheads.

“It's a way to change the narrative a bit, to point to the core message that life is short and we know it,” Mr. Stansbury said. “It's a reminder that if you want to change the way you live, God loves you enough to help you do it.”

He got the idea for the candy from his friend, the poet Jay Hulme wrote on social media “People will be celebrating their Valentine's Day, all nice and loving, and the clergy are going to be in the streets in black robes with gray pots like 'Death! Death! Death!'”

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Some Catholic clergy remind their flocks that on the church calendar, Ash Wednesday clearly trumps Valentine's Day. Some of its origins It dates back to the third century in honor of the saint but is now essentially a secular holiday.

Bishop Eric Bollmeier of St. Augustine, Fla., is among those encouraging couples in his diocese. Celebrate Valentine's Day a day early This year. That puts the celebration on Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, a day traditionally marked by a big pancake dinner and other extravagant and extravagant indulgences, followed by fasting and abstinence on the night before Lent. As Shakespeare's Falstaff said: Eat, drink and be merry, and tomorrow we remember our death.

But Bishop Bollmeier does not inherently conflict the spirit of Valentine's Day with the message of Lent.

In the season leading up to Easter, “we recognize in our faith that God himself chose to come to us in a completely selfish way,” he said. “Human love should be an expression of such love.”

He pointed out that there was high drama in Catholic circles last year when St. Patrick's Day fell on a Friday in Lent, prompting some bishops. Offer special offers For consuming meat on a holiday known for corned beef.

Out of Kansas City, Mr. Diamond plans to attend Mass with his family on Wednesday. But on Tuesday night, he and his wife were on their way to a booze hop hosted by the School of Love, a ministry for Catholic couples supported by the Archdiocese of Kansas City. It was billed as Valentine's Day night, but was scheduled for the 13th in anticipation of Ash Wednesday.

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“It's a bit complicated to do the show and try to take some things that don't look like they're going to go together and try to make it work,” said Mike Dennyhan, who founded Love School with his wife, Christy Dennyhan. He noted that starting the next day, both beer and sweets would be available to those who forsook one or both.

Elsewhere in Kansas City, the Chiefs prepared to celebrate their Super Bowl victory with a typically beer-soaked parade and downtown rally.

The team's kicker Harrison Butker, who often talks about his Catholic faith, said he attends morning Mass with his wife and children. Although he will participate in the parade, he said in an email to The New York Times, “I will not be celebrating in the usual way with food and drink because it is a day of fasting and abstaining from meat.”

Mr. For Budkar, the trade-off is worth it.

“Just as there is no super bowl without sacrifice, so there is no resurrection without the sacrifice of our Lord,” he wrote. “It will be difficult, but if I want to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord on Easter, I must remember that during Lent I must participate in His suffering.”

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