This article was first published in the State of Faith newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Monday night.

Wednesday is Valentine’s Day, which means many people will spend it exchanging love notes and eating chocolate.

But it’s also Ash Wednesday, which creates a unique tension for some people of faith.

That’s partly because Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday, the religious holiday that kicks off the season of Lent, have very different tones. Valentine’s Day is like a sugary pop song, while Ash Wednesday is a slow and sorrowful ballad.

It’s also because there are very different traditions tied to the two days.

On Valentine’s Day, couples often go on elaborate dates or at least share a special meal at home. But many Christians spend Ash Wednesday reflecting on death and sinfulness before going to an evening worship service, and some, including Catholics, are expected to fast.

When the two holidays most recently overlapped in 2018, Religion News Service spoke with faith leaders about how to respond to the tension. Some offered a love-themed sermon during Ash Wednesday services, while others moved their Valentine’s Day celebrations to earlier in the week.

Many painted the overlap between the two holidays as an opportunity to try something new, rather than as something to get upset about.

“Sometimes when something is odd or uncomfortable the best thing to do is to lean into the discomfort,” the Rev. Peter Antoci said to Religion News Service.

This year, my friends who observe Ash Wednesday plan to make it the priority on Feb. 14. Some have mentioned doing special Valentine’s Day activities with their kids on Tuesday, which is Mardi Gras, and then doing a date night with their partner later in the week.

Just like 2018 was good practice for this year, this week can be good practice for 2029. That’s when Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday will next overlap, according to Newsday.


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Term of the week: Nian

Nian is the mythical beast that helped inspire modern Lunar New Year traditions. Legend has it that the New Year celebrations were necessary in order to scare away the beast.

“Because Nian was afraid of loud noises, fire and the color red, people used firecrackers and red paper to frighten the mythical creature away,” The Washington Post reported, noting that firecrackers and fireworks are also thought to drive away bad luck.

This year’s Lunar New Year festivities began on Feb. 10 and launched the Year of the Dragon. Over 1 billion people celebrate the holiday, which is also called the Spring Festival, according to The Washington Post.


What I’m reading...

Soon after the royal family revealed King Charles III’s cancer diagnosis, England’s chief rabbi composed a prayer for him and his family, which asks God to heal Charles and comfort his loved ones. The Forward reported on the prayer and on the rabbi’s relationship with the king, noting that he’s been present at many significant events in the life of the royal family, including last year’s coronation.

Ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl, my colleague Brandon Judd spoke with Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid and other members of the Chiefs organization about Reid’s faith.

Pew Research Center released a fact sheet on atheists as a follow-up to its recent in-depth report on religious “nones.”


Odds and ends

Have I mentioned lately how much I love the Art But Make It Sports account on X?

If you need a refresher on Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent, revisit my guide to this time of year from last February.