Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Got 1 min? Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day coincide for first time in 79 years

This year, Valentine’s Day, or Día del Amor y la Amistad as it is known in Mexico, and the Christian holiday of Ash Wednesday coincided for the first time since 1945. 

In a statement, the National Catholic Register said that the two holidays are closely linked to one another. “The intersection of the two holy days provides a providential opportunity for us all to remember the purpose of Lent, the nature of love, and the person of St. Valentine, bishop and martyr.”

Those fasting on the first day of Lent may find it challenging to refrain from enjoying some Valentine’s treats. (Luiz Paulo Santos/Unsplash)

However, those who fast on Ash Wednesday may find it challenging to celebrate both holidays.

What is Ash Wednesday and how is it observed in Mexico?

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, or cuaresma in Spanish. It is a day of penance and fasting that originated with ancient Jewish rituals. 

In Catholic tradition, ash represents the idea that man is made of dust from the earth and will eventually return to it. On this day, a priest applies ashes to a person’s forehead while saying: “Remember you are dust, and you shall return to dust.” 

The name “Ash Wednesday” is comes from the rites administered by priests. (Thays Orrico/Unsplash)

Contrary to popular belief, Catholics are not obligated to be smudged with ashes because it is not a day when the faithful are required to attend mass. However, the faithful are expected to adhere to fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday.

This year, Lent will conclude on March 24.

What is the origin story of Valentine’s Day?

The origins of this holiday are said to date back to the Lupercalia festival of ancient Rome. This festival was celebrated in mid-February and included fertility rites and the consumption of alcohol.

As the Roman Empire became more Christian, Lupercalia was transformed into a celebration honoring the Roman Saint Valentine, who died in 270 A.D.

Legend has it that Saint Valentine was arrested for defying an order issued by Emperor Claudius that prohibited Roman soldiers from getting married. He was beheaded for his religious beliefs, and Roman men chose to commemorate his death by drawing the names of eligible young women from an urn. 

Today it is a popular and commercially significant holiday in many parts of the world, including in Mexico.

With reports from The New York Times, El Universal and El Informador

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