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Ash Wednesday & Lent 2018: History & Origins
Catholics celebrate Ash Wednesday during a mass at Holy Name Cathedral on March 1, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. Ash Wednesday, which occurs 46 days before Easter, marks the first day of Lent and the beginning of a fast for many Christian religions. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

This year, for the first time since 1945, Ash Wednesday will fall on Valentine’s Day. This means if you celebrate Lent, you’ll have to skip out on the wine and chocolate. Technically speaking. As you prepare to give up sweets for 40 days, you may be thinking, what is the history behind Ash Wednesday and Lent?

Lent is a time of prayer, fasting, and reflection before Easter. It lasts for 40 days, not including Sundays, to represent the time Jesus spent fasting in the desert. Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent and always falls 46 days before Easter. It is one of only two days out of the year – the other being Good Friday -- where fasting and abstinence are required, explains Bishop Richard Malone to The New York Times. He offers a solution to this year’s Valentine’s Day dilemma: “Those who are accustomed to celebrating Valentine’s Day might to do, perhaps, the day before. Join it up with Mardi Gras!”

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