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  • Writer's pictureZach Gendall

A Rare 90-Year Occurrence

Ash Wednesday / Valentine's Day 2024

Today, Wednesday, February 14th, 2024, marks a rare and unsystematic occasion. Today, we are both experiencing Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day on the same calendar day. An occurrence that has not happened since 1934. 


So, with that being said, if there is that special someone in your life you love, and you haven't yet had a chance to get them anything like chocolate or a card, stop reading this, go get that card, and come back here later on to finish reading!

For everyone else, let’s take a moment to reflect on these occasions, their origins, and what significance if any they hold for Christians today. 


To begin with, Valentine's Day, which is celebrated on February 14th each year, is dedicated to expressing love and affection to those closest to our hearts. While the modern-day celebration involves exchanging cards, flowers, and gifts, the origins of Valentine's Day are shrouded in historical mysteries. One popular belief traces the celebration back to ancient Rome, where mid-February was marked by the festival of Lupercalia. This pagan celebration involved rituals and the pairing of men and women into couples. As Christianity spread, the Roman Church sought to Christianize pagan festivals, and in the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I declared February 14th as St. Valentine's Day.


Over time, the day became associated with romantic love and devotion Sometime, in the Middle Ages, the notion of birds choosing their mates further contributed to the romantic symbolism of the day. By the 18th century, exchanging handwritten notes and small tokens of affection became common in England and has helped lead to how we recognize this day today.


Meanwhile, Ash Wednesday marks the commencement of Lent: a period of reflection, repentance, and preparation for Easter in many Christian traditions and certainly for the Roman Catholic Church. Ash Wednesday is rooted in ancient Christian practices and was officially decreed by Pope Urban II at the Council of Benevento in 1091 and was extended by the Catholic church to all of its individuals. Ash Wednesday introduces 40 days of fasting and penitential preparation for Easter and serves as the beginning of Lent (It is actually 46 days before Easter, but Sundays are excluded from the count). The specific practice of attending church and having your forehead marked with ashes can be traced to the eighth century.


Besides Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans also celebrate Ash Wednesday. Unlike Valentine’s Day, these practices can be traced to the Old Testament, where individuals would sprinkle ashes on their heads as a sign of sorrow and contrition such as in Job 42:6 and Jonah 3:6.


While the origins of Valentine's Day may be rooted in ancient customs, its contemporary celebration has evolved into a day that celebrates love, making it a cherished occasion for people worldwide. Similarly, Ash Wednesday stands as a solemn yet hopeful gateway to the Lent season, inviting those who practice to embark on a journey of spiritual renewal and self-examination. 


Today, I would encourage us all to look at the meaning of these two days, regardless of your thoughts on their modern practices, and instead focus on their purpose. How can you show love to someone in your life today and how can you turn to God and embrace him as your provider? 


Read these words with me from Ephesians and go live them out today.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV

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