Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day – Is February 14 a day of fasting or feasting?

This year, Ash Wednesday coincides with Valentine’s Day, leaving some Catholics questioning if they should be fasting or if they can indulge in chocolates and other treats.

The confusion has led to statements from dioceses across the country, clarifying what our obligation is this year on February 14. This is what the Archdiocese of Chicago had to say:

This year, the largely secular celebration of Valentine’s Day (February 14) coincides with Ash Wednesday and some have inquired if a dispensation from the obligations to fast and abstain from meat will be given.

Catholics throughout the world recognize Ash Wednesday as the solemn beginning of a period of prayerful reflection and penance, as is evident by the large number of church goers on this day.

In view of the significance of Ash Wednesday the obligation of fast and abstinence must naturally be the priority in the Catholic community. Valentine’s Day can appropriately be celebrated the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday which also happens to be Mardi Gras, a traditionally festive time before beginning our Lenten observance.

So, Wednesday, February 14 will remain a day of fasting and abstinence to mark the beginning of the season of Lent. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate Valentine’s Day the day or weekend prior. Rhonda Martin, licensed professional clinical counselor, joined Morning Air® to offer some suggestions for celebrating Saint Valentine’s feast day with your family. Her family will celebrate this year on February 13, ‘Valentine’s Day Eve’, with a special family dinner.

Family with ashes on their foreheadsThis celebration of love and affection is a great time to reflect on or discuss love with your family. “For Valentine’s Day, with everything going on in the world, we should take time to look at the people in our lives and at those moments in our lives that are really illustrative of love,” says Martin.

She asked her 4-year-old son what he imagined his future wife might be like, and she was surprised by his answer. Questions such as this one can open up a great discussion about relationships and love. If you’re trying to start a conversation, ask them open-ended questions, says Martin. Talking to your kids about healthy relationships (which includes friendships!) can do a lot of good. If you give your kids undivided attention, “they will open up; they want someone to talk to.”

Husband gives flowers to his smiling wifeCelebrating the secularized holiday of Valentine’s Day isn’t for everyone, but if you do go out for date night with your spouse, it might be a good witness for your kids. Show them what love and affection in a healthy marriage looks like. Give your family an example of what to aspire to be as a spouse and also what qualities to look for in a future spouse.

In addition to benefits for your kids, a date night out with your spouse is healthy for your marriage, too! Sure, it might be silly to celebrate the brutal martyrdom of Saint Valentine with flowers and chocolates, but spreading a little love to your family and friends never hurts!

Listen to the full podcast here.


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Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.