Dear Maggie – February 8, 2024

Dear Maggie —

Is it me or is it crazy how early Lent is this year!?  I feel like I just put the Christmas decorations away because – oh, wait, I just put the Christmas decorations away!!  I can’t believe that Valentine’s Day is sharing the date with Ash Wednesday this year.  I know we’re supposed to fast and abstain from meat that day, and I’ll be starting my annual diet giving up sweets for Lent again this year – so that knocks out meat and chocolate.  I want to be able to celebrate Cupid’s day with my sweetie, but what’s a girl to do?  I just love your column! You always seem to have sage advice for your readers – so I’m curious, as a holy woman of the Church, how are you celebrating Valentine’s Day with Malcolm and honoring the start of Lent at the same time?

— Abstaining Abigail

Dear Abstaining —

I’m so glad that you enjoy reading my column each week, and I’m happy to try to address your question. I do know what you mean, Lent does feel early this year.  Funnily, when I mentioned that to Father John, he pointed out that it really isn’t THAT early – and he laughed and said that every year, no matter when Lent starts, he always hears comments that it’s so early or so late. Apparently, no one thinks that Lent ever starts just on time! 😁

It is more unusual however that Ash Wednesday is sharing the date with Valentine’s Day. I ran into St. Valentine the other day at Dierbergs – he was picking up some supplies for next week and even he was trying to figure out what to do.  That’s why I think the school had the right idea about moving all of the Valentine’s Day festivities to the day before – Tuesday the 13th. That way the kids can have all of their parties and enjoy their treats, and still be ready to go for Lent to start on Wednesday. I suggest we all do the same – celebrate on Tuesday.  Plus, the celebration around Valentine’s Day feels much more in line with Mardi Gras anyway. What better way to honor Fat Tuesday than by stuffing your face with a nice Surf & Turf, followed by loads of chocolate – right before the fasting begins! I for one will take this as a good reason to go particularly overboard with the treats this year!  I love Mardi Gras – and in my younger days, I gathered quite a lot of beads at the parade!  (Calm down – back in my day, just showing a bit of bare ankle was enough to get you more beads than you could carry.  Though the men were known to accidentally flash sometimes in those kilts!)  I’ve already ordered my King Cake (yes, I found the baby last year), and my gumbo pot is ready and rarin’ to go, though being Scottish, we make ours with haggis.  Yum!

Malcolm usually loves a good leg of mutton and a stein or three of mead, so I’ll be firing up the spit for our Valentine’s dinner that night.  It’s the best gift I can give him, plus mutton isn’t usually on the menu at Bogarts. And he always picks up chocolate-covered strawberries from Merbs for me, so I’ll be in a choco-coma by bedtime.  Plus, remember that even though it’s fasting and no meat on Wednesday, all is not totally lost – we have reservations at White Castle for Valentine’s night (yes, it’s a thing) and will be enjoying fish sandwiches and impossible sliders that evening. So in a way, we get two celebrations – though after everything I plan to eat on Fat Tuesday, a sensible dinner will be in order. 

And after all of the partying for Mardi Gras AND Valentine’s Day this year, I figure ash just might be the perfect color on Wednesday morning to match my ashen face.  Although that whole “return to dust” thing is kind of lost on a spirit – been there, done that.  But I’ll be there with all of the kids for the all-school, Ash Wednesday Mass – even the preschoolers are going!  It’s always so much fun seeing their faces as dirt gets smeared on their foreheads – the bigger the smear, the prouder they are.  Parents are welcome to join as well, so get your ash in Church! (ha!!).  Maybe I’ll see you there, and you can let me know how your Valentine’s Day is going.  Because remember, abstinence makes the heart grow fonder!

— Maggie


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