Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday fall on the same day this year. Author Lauren Windle reflects on this unlikely compatibility and ponders what it means for us

Today is a special day for a number of reasons. It’s Valentine’s Day. Sandwiched between Galentine’s Day and Single Awareness Day (as if single people aren’t aware), it’s the day when we recognise and celebrate romantic love by boosting the profits of greetings card companies the world over.

This year, Cupid’s arrow has fallen neatly on Ash Wednesday – the first day of Lent. Lent is the 40-day period that leads up to Easter when followers of Jesus are invited to prepare themselves for his death and resurrection.


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A jarring juxtaposition?

Coming hot off the heels of the Shrove Tuesday feast (aka Pancake Day), Ash Wednesday is typically the start of a period of sacrifice, fasting and solemnity. It is a sober reminder of human mortality and the need for reconciliation with God. 

The idea of marking the start of Lent with champagne, chocolates, balloons, giant teddies and Hugh Grant films is out of place when juxtaposed with the receiving of an ash cross on your forehead and a reminder to repent. In this way, Ash Wednesday could be considered completely at odds with typical Valentine’s celebrations. However, I think the two can inform each other beautifully. 

Lent is a profound and formative time in the life of a Christian. It is a time for us to reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made for us. We ponder the promises held in his life, death and resurrection and the gravity of that undertaking. We celebrate what that means for us and the new life we have access to through Jesus. We recognise that all of this happened because “God so loved the world” (John 3:16).

Sacrificial love

While Valentine’s Day is a clumsy reminder to appreciate the loves in your life. Yes, the marketing would tell you that this a romantic partner, but any sensible person knows that to make one individual the sole focus of your worldly love is to be disappointed. Love is available through partners, friends, family, colleagues and those in our communities every day. 


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Being in relationship, especially in a romantic sense, requires sacrifice from those around you. Likewise, if you want healthy relationships, you will need to sacrifice for them too. But that’s the price of love – and no one knew that better than Jesus.

To me it is apt, that as we begin 40 days of preparations to recognise the lengths that Jesus went to out of love for us, we give just one day to mark earthly love. In John 13:34, Jesus said: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” 

Jesus showed his love through gentleness, kindness, patience and sacrifice. I doubt there is one person who would say they don’t need more of these things in their relationships. 

So, this Valentine’s Day, could you focus on what you can give to those you love? I’m not talking about flowers and heart shaped cookies but instead, the time, attention and support that help us thrive. And this Lent, as you prepare to celebrate Jesus’ sacrifice, could you spend some time pondering how you can receive his love and then show it to those around you? 


Lauren Windle is a commissioning editor at SPCK and author of Notes on Love and Notes on Feminism. Lauren is also a journalist, presenter and Tedx speaker specialising in faith, addiction, feminism, love and pop culture.