Jim Beckerman, Staff Writer, NorthJersey.com
2018 is a bargain. On two occasions, Feb. 14 and April 1, we’ll be getting two holidays for the price of one.
Ash Wednesday, this year, falls on the same date as Valentine’s Day: Feb 14.
Easter, this year, falls on the same date as April Fool’s Day: April 1.
Got a problem with that? You might, if you’re a Roman Catholic. The confluence of Valentine’s Day and the first day of Lent, for instance, could be a dilemma.
“For some people, it could be a little confusing,” says the Rev. John Gordon of the Archdiocese of Newark. “Do I fast, or do I eat my chocolate?”
More cynically, you could argue that the day of love and the day of repentance naturally belong together.
Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and April Fool’s Day are what is known as a “fixed feasts” They happen each year on the same date. Valentine’s Day is always Feb. 14. Christmas is always Dec. 25. April Fool’s Day is always April 1.
But Easter, Ash Wednesday, Thanksgiving are so-called “moveable feasts” (a term that may be familiar to Hemingway fans; it was the title of his posthumous 1964 memoir).
The date of a moveable feast varies from year to year — for reasons that sometimes have to do with governmental fiat, as in Thanksgiving, more often with the lunar cycle.
Jesus, according to scripture, was crucified on the Friday of Passover, and resurrected on Sunday. That means that the date of the Easter celebration is always wedded to that of Passover — another moveable feast (usually the first full moon after the vernal equinox).
“It shows the relationship between Christianity and Judaism, because the Christian calendar grows out of the Jewish lunar calendar, and the moveable feast is associated with the lunar calendar,” says the Rev. Pablo Gadenz, associate professor of biblical studies at Seton Hall University.
Since Easter floats around on the calendar, it follows that Lent, which is tied to the date of Easter — it begins 46 days before — also floats around. Which is how Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, happened to fall on Valentine’s Day in 2018.
“It’s just a coincidence that happened this year,” Gadenz says.
So if two holidays fall on the same day, which one do you celebrate?