Happy Valentine’s Ash Wednesday! (Other variations include: Holy Day of Valentine, Heart Ash Day, Romantic Ash Wednesday. Your choice.)
Looking for a way to celebrate that acknowledges, all at once, your Catholic upbringing, current religious uncertainty and zeal for romantic holidays? You’ve come to the right place.
Option one: I, like many questioning Catholics, went to 13 years of Catholic school. Here, in the parish church of my grade school days, the ceremony of Ash Wednesday reached its true (read: mildly terrifying) potential. Hundreds of small children, resplendent in their plaid school uniform finest, sat with their heads bowed, crosses of dark ash marking their foreheads. The main excitement at my grade school masses stemmed from the communion wine. One or two brave children from each class would subject themselves to the ritual of the wine, an aspect of Holy Communion in which wine, as the blood of Jesus Christ, is drunk from a golden goblet. To third graders, the challenge of drinking the wine at Communion was akin to what I imagine chugging a full handle of Aristocrat vodka would be today. The volunteers, half-giddy and half-horrified, would stumble back to their pews, gagging and making faces of disgust at their awed classmates.
This Valentine’s Day, honor the traditional presence of wine in both romantic and religious rituals by going on a date and ordering a full bottle. For yourself. Mumble “Amen” and gag audibly after every sip, refusing to provide an explanation.
Option two: looking to commemorate this Valentine’s Ash Wednesday in a more permanent way? Ash Wednesday’s primary activity involves a priest inscribing a cross of ashes onto parishioners’ foreheads, while saying, “Remember, you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This ritual is meant to inspire an awareness of the temporality of life on earth. Since your body will soon return to its ashen state anyway, you might as well take this ritual to the next level: namely, a Valentine’s Day heart tattoo on your forehead. It’s the perfect way to signify to the larger world that you understand the traditions of Ash Wednesday, while retaining that fun, light-hearted romance of Valentine’s Day.