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News / Clark County News

Popular ‘holidays’ fall on holy days

Valentine’s Day, Ash Wednesday share day; Easter, April Fool’s, too

By Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith
Published: February 13, 2018, 6:05am
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Happy Valentine’s Day … Jesus.

The Rev. Jaime Case hopes God is taking some delight in this year’s funny calendar coincidences. For the first time since 1945, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, falls on Valentine’s Day. Easter falls on April Fool’s Day.

This will happen again in 2029, and almost again in 2024. In 2024, Ash Wednesday will again be on Valentine’s Day, but Easter will be on March 31 because 2024 is a leap year.

“We really feel kind of nerdy about our old calendar,” said Case, rector at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

Easter can fall on a different day each year depending on the moon; it falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. Ash Wednesday, then, is determined by counting backward six Sundays from Easter. It’s the Wednesday prior.

For some, Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting — which doesn’t really jive with the lavish dinner dates and chocolates associated with Valentine’s Day. Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is typically a day of feasting before Lent. So, then, perhaps it’s too bad Vancouver’s new Golden Corral opens on Valentine’s Day, which is always Feb. 14, and not today, Fat Tuesday.

But, it all depends on how people recognize the holy day and how seriously they take what Case dubs a “Hallmark holiday.” He said the church doesn’t observe Valentine’s Day in any meaningful way.

“Nothing against the idea of a day dedicated to amorous love … but it is kind of secondary,” Case said.

And April Fool’s Day? Pssssh, it hasn’t even made April 1 into an officially recognized holiday. But Case can see how nonbelievers will enjoy the irony of Easter falling on April Fool’s Day.

The Rev. W.R. Harris of the Proto Cathedral of St. James the Greater said that while people make sacrifices for the Lenten season, it shouldn’t necessarily impose on Valentine’s Day.

“It’s not like nobody will go out to dinner,” he said. “They pick and choose the sacrifices they’re going to make.”

People sacrifice something — whether it’s meat or candy or watching television — because Christ sacrificed his life, Harris said. “It’s a time for us to take inventory of our lives and look at those things that are not like God.”

Although Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation for Catholics (a day when they’re obligated to attend Mass) many begin Lent by attending church and getting the sign of the cross smudged on their foreheads with ashes.

So, couples might be out on a dinner and church date on Wednesday with what looks like dirt on their faces. Really, it’s a reminder of mortality and repentance.

“Just because it’s Ash Wednesday doesn’t mean you can’t go out and celebrate love,” said the Rev. Tom Warne of Church of the Good Shepherd.

On Ash Wednesday, Warne stands out on Ellsworth Road offering ashes-to-go for commuters. For two decades, he’s said the traditional invocation: Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. But, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day he’s saying something different — and expects to get some funny looks because of it: Remember that you are loved, and to love you shall return.

Warne told his Episcopalian parish that they don’t have to beat themselves up during Lent. Rather, he called on them to remember that they are loved unconditionally by God. It can be a time to look for manifestations of God’s love and to show that love to others.

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He’s already started thinking about what he’ll say during Easter service. When April Fool’s Day fell on Good Friday one year, he discussed the history of the “holy fools,” which included a saint who ran through the streets naked with a string of sausages around his neck during Lent.

In a way, he said, the resurrection of Jesus was God pulling a rabbit out of a hat — the ultimate April Fool’s trick.

“No one saw that coming,” Warne said.

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Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith