February 13, 2018
Catholics keen to spoil their loved ones on St Valentine's Day tomorrow face a dilemma.
For the first time since 1945 it falls on the same day as Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent and a day when Catholics fast and abstain from meat - requirements which could leave their romantic plans in jeopardy.
Celebrate Valentines Day tonight - and fast on Ash Wednesday tomorrow, Catholics told
As a compromise Catholic bishops have suggested celebrating the festival of romance this evening instead - but those who may leave it to tomorrow may end up having a more abstemious meal than is usual.
Traditionally Catholics must forgo meat and reduce their food intake to only one main meal, with two smaller snacks if necessary at other meal times, which must not exceed the size of the main meal.
Feasting and celebrating is seen as inappropriate.
The ashes, a symbol of penance, which are often placed on a worshipper's forehead in the shape of a cross, reflect the fact that Ash Wednesday is a sombre day when Christians are supposed to reflect and pray ahead of the season of Lent.
Bishop John Arnold, Bishop of Salford, suggested that the festivals might not be so different in character after all - but nevertheless suggested moving St Valentine's Day celebrations to this evening.
He said: “People flock to Mass and to receive their ashes on Ash Wednesday, it’s one of the most powerful days in the Church’s calendar.
"This year it falls on 14th February, popularly celebrated as St Valentine’s Day, a day for romantic love.
"Ash Wednesday also celebrates great love, sacrificial love which goes the heart of our very being.
"I would encourage Catholics to embrace that love, and wholeheartedly live this one day of Penance and abstinence which marks the beginning of the powerful season of Lent.
"And similarly, to embrace the light-hearted spirit of mardi-gras or carnival, on the evening of Shrove Tuesday, 13th February, by bringing forward their romantic Valentine’s encounter, should they wish to do so."
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