Observing both Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day this year might be tough. Here’s why.

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Written By Vikas Jangid

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What are Ash Wednesday and Lent?

As we've mentioned, Ash Wednesday kicks off a 40-day period called Lent for Christians. To observe, they fast, avoid certain foods, and attend mass.

This day typically sees high attendance at mass, according to Kim Mandelkow from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and Father Martin Schlag from the University of St. Thomas.

Palms burned from the previous day, Shrove Tuesday, are used to mark attendees with ashes, usually in the form of a cross on the forehead. Schlag explains that these ashes serve as a reminder of mortality as Lent begins.

Source: Journey Deeper 

Why does Ash Wednesday always fall on different dates?

Similar to Easter, Ash Wednesday changes dates each year. Easter's date varies because it depends on the moon.

As Mandelkow explains, Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox.

Schlag adds that the moon operates on its lunar calendar, not the solar calendar, so it changes annually. As a result, Easter can occur on any Sunday between March 22 and April 25.

This year, it falls on March 31, a frequently occurring date for the holiday according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Another common date for Easter is April 16.

Ash Wednesday doesn't precisely occur 40 days before Easter. Instead, it falls on the seventh Wednesday before Easter Sunday. This year, it falls on February 14th. Next year, with Easter on April 20th, this Wednesday will be on March 5th.

How frequently do Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day occur on the same date?

Despite its rarity, it's not uncommon for Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day to coincide on a Wednesday.

The most recent occurrence was in 2018, which was particularly unique as Easter also fell on April Fools' Day that year. Prior to 2018, the last alignment of this Wednesday and Valentine's Day happened in 1945, according to USA Today.

Before that, it occurred in 1923 and 1934. The next time they'll coincide is in 2029, when both holidays will again fall on the same Wednesday, with Easter once more landing on April Fools' Day.

After that, such a synchronicity won't happen again for the remainder of the century.

A caution about observing Valentine’s Day during Ash Wednesday.

If you plan to dine out at a restaurant (perhaps one of those renowned as the most romantic in the U.S.) or prepare a meal at home to mark Valentine's Day, church authorities advise that you must still follow the guidelines of this Wednesday.

Bishop Joseph Bambera from the Diocese of Scranton recently emphasized that adults observing this Wednesday should fast throughout the day if they are 18 years old or older.

WBRE, a Nexstar affiliate, also notes that Bishop Bambera has directed individuals aged 14 and above who are not fasting to refrain from consuming meat.

"Valentine's Day could be celebrated on a different day, like the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, also known as Mardi Gras, a time of festivity before Lent," Bishop Bambera suggested. "This will ensure that this  Wednesday maintains its proper significance."

In the upcoming year, with Easter falling on April 20th, Ash Wednesday will occur on March 5th.

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