Valentine's Day, Ash Wednesday fall on same day for first time since 1945

For Cincinnati Christians, is it feast or fast?

CINCINNATI -- For Greater Cincinnati's Christians, Wednesday might come with a conundrum: Feast, or fast?

If you're not single, Valentine's Day often means a fancy dinner, decadent chocolates, flowers, and possibly some alcohol. 

But for the first time since 1945, the holiday falls on the same day as Ash Wednesday, when Christians are supposed to spend the day fasting.

According to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati, the two holidays need not be contradictory. The Rev. Gabriel Torretta says both are about love: Valentine's Day celebrates human love, while the Christian season of Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday, is a time recognizing Jesus Christ's love for humanity.

"So why not take that beautiful idea about Valentine's Day... and give that this decisive direction toward Jesus Christ," said Torretta, parochial vicar at St. Gertrude's Parish in Madeira.

St. Gertrude's will have a series of daily video meditations around the theme "Lent is for Lovers." The parish also is hosting a Valentine's Day-Ash Wednesday feast day meal. The idea is that people don't have to choose between the two holidays, Torretta said. Couples, single people and widows have shown interest, along with entire families.

"It's a way of actually having a real time of penance together, but also entering into the joy of love," he said.

Catholics and other Christians have traditionally given up something for Lent, whether a bad habit or a pleasure they enjoy. At Hyde Park Gourmet Food and Wine, they're ready to accommodate those needs this Valentine's Day. There's the usual selection of cheese, chocolates and wines -- but also nonalcoholic champagne and organic soaps made with wine for people who aren't drinking alcohol this Lent.

"People are definitely in the mood, I think. People are coming in and seem upbeat," co-owner Sylvia Levine said.

Lenten abstinence could also be one way for couples to come closer together, Torretta said. He just advised they talk about it beforehand.

"If they're expecting a card and flowers and chocolates, you don't say, 'Oh, I gave that up for Lent.' That's how you break up," he said.

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