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A rare coincidence of holidays
THE NORTHWOODS - For many, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a time to abstain and fast. While Valentine's Day is usually about giving flowers and chocolates.

So what do you do if you are taking part in both? People haven't had to make this decision in 73 years. 1945 is the last time Ash Wednesday fell on Valentines.

Rev. Patrick McConnell recognizes the feast day of Saint Valentine.

"Saint Valentine would never want credit or the focus on him," said McConnell.

McConnell said it is only second to the celebration of Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of Lent. 
"Lent is about warming the heart of the Christian," said McConnell.

As Father McConnell led mass at St. Peter the Fisherman in Eagle River on Wednesday morning he called the congregation to remember what is really important about the day.

"I may be more inclined to love a little more deeply given all the hearts around," said Pat Hilbrich, who attended Ash Wednesday mass.

Traditionally, Ash Wednesday calls for people to eat only one meal and to avoid eating meat.

"It would be very difficult…if you were planning on having steak and lobster for your wife," said McConnell.

"We're going to have fast and abstinence, we're going to have fish," said Gary Busko, who attended Ash Wednesday mass.

Owner of The Brick restaurant in Rhinelander, Tracey Harmon, says the holiday is not effecting business. They are booked solid on Wednesday night.

"We were surprisingly busy last night. The nights leading up to it normally aren't very busy but last night we had a very good night," said Harmon.

Harmon said she thinks some people don't realize that Valentine's Day is also Ash Wednesday this year. So the chef is taking precautions.

"Chef has prepared more seafood dishes for the specials tonight and we have a very large seafood selection on our menu," said Harmon.

Manager at the Fun Factory in Rhinelander has seen similar trends.

"We haven't noticed any less business but we did encounter some people placing their orders early so that they could indulge yesterday," said manager Judy Fritz.

"I did my Fat Tuesday last night, so that was kind of an early celebration for Valentines," said Mary Wick, who attended Ash Wednesday mass.

Father McConnell says the two holidays go hand in hand.

"I think Ash Wednesday is not contrary to Valentine's Day at all," said McConnell.

He said both holidays celebrate love.

"Today on Valentine's Day we are to warm the heart of others, just as we are during lent," said McConnell.

Ash Wednesday and Valentine's is not the only holiday coincidence this season. Easter Sunday falls on April Fool's Day. 

Story By: Fitzgerald, Maggie


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