Ash Wednesday is also Valentine's Day this year, but here are five reasons you don't have to panic.

Valentine's Day on Ash Wednesday and vice versa. It's a rare and ironic alignment, but is it really that strange in a year that's already seen iced roads in South Louisiana and a 'SuperRedBlueEclipsedMoon?' 'Ashentine's Wednesday' (as I call it) hasn't happened since 1945, and it's a source of panic for those who wish to be faithful to their Catholic beliefs and also want to participate Valentine's Day.

The biggest reason for some concerned Catholics is that Ash Wednesay is a day of both fasting (one regular meal and two smaller meals that do not together equal the larger meal) and abstinence (no meat) AND because a lot of folks give up sweets during Lent.

Keeping all that in mind, here are some things to consider about Ash Wednesday, Lent, and Valentine's Day. Some of this is my opinion, so your mileage may vary.

  • Wikipedia

    Lent Doesn't Mean Saying 'No' To Love

    There's beauty in Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day joining forces: Lent is all about Jesus giving himself as the ultimate unconditional gift to the people he loves. What better Valentine could there be?

    One of the most popular Catholic devotions is to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The devotion centers on the image of Jesus' heart, surrounded with a crown of thorns and featuring a flame that represents the love of God for all people. The unconditional love of God in Jesus is the model of selflessness that Christians strive to emulate.

    In that spirit, give an act of service to the one you love instead of a card someone else wrote. Make them dinner instead of taking them to a restaurant. Surprise them with a clean house/apartment/car. Give them the gift of your time and attention, two of the most precious (and difficult) gifts to give anyone, especially these days.

  • AFP/Getty Images
    AFP/Getty Images

    Sweets Are Fine, If...

    There seems to be a lot of confusion/frustration/panic over the issue of sweets. Sweets are to Valentine's Day what king cakes are to Mardi Gras season, but that doesn't mean they're forbidden on Ash Wednesday. If your Valentine didn't give up sweets, then there's nothing wrong with a few pieces of chocolate or some other sweet.

    There's also nothing wrong with a person swapping their sweet fasting with some other sacrifice just on Ash Wednesday. If you're giving up sweets for Lent, just give up something else for Ash Wednesday and then get back to not eating sweets on Thursday. Even better, do an extra act of service for someone on Ash Wednesday.

  • Facebook/Cajun Claws Seafood Boilers Crabs
    Facebook/Cajun Claws Seafood Boilers Crabs

    Plenty Of Alternatives To The Steak Dinner

    I think most people who live in South Louisiana will agree that it's not much of a sacrifice to give up meat during Lent when there are so many delicious seafood alternatives available. If you were planning a steak dinner, switch to seafood or to a meatless dish. You're also allowed to enjoy that romantic dinner as long as you don't overindulge, so just make dinner your one big meal of the day.

  • Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for NYCWFF
    Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for NYCWFF

    Don't Spare The Champagne

    Champagne is a big seller on Valentine's Day, and there's no reason you shouldn't enjoy a glass of bubbly as you toast the love in your life. Remember that wine was often used to celebrate in biblical times, and what's more worthy of celebration than love? Just avoid overindulging.

  • David McNew, Getty Images
    David McNew, Getty Images

    Flowers Are Always A Safe Bet

    There's no Lenten rule prohibiting flowers, so you can't go wrong with a bouquet of roses or other flowers. They've never failed to make an impression in my experience.

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