This important day

Today, Wednesday, February 14, 2018, offers special significance in more ways than we might imagine. Today is Ash Wednesday, one of the important holy days on the Christian calendar. The day begins Lent, a season of fasting and prayer, which ends with Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday derives from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting. Observing the day, many Christians wear ashes that a priest or minister has applied to their foreheads in the shape of a cross.

This same day is celebrated as Valentine’s Day, a day on which many people exchange cards, gifts or flowers to express their love for one another. Some historians believe that this day, named for a sainted Christian martyr, actually originated with the Roman holiday called Lupercalia, an ancient pagan festival, a violent event that included animal sacrifice and random sexual matchmaking aimed at warding off evil spirits and infertility. These days, we tend to celebrate in more sedate ways, like eating chocolate.

February 14 also marks the midpoint in the shortest month, a month I have always disliked, mainly because it extends winter for four more weeks. Spring isn’t here yet, but I think I can see it from here.

And February 14 marks the beginning of Spring Training, a day when pitchers and catchers gather in warm places to begin the annual ritual of loosening up to prepare for a summer of baseball.

March and its annual basketball madness awaits, only two weeks away. Yesterday I noticed our daffodils’ green shoots pushing up through the earth next to our house. Now that’s a cause for celebration.

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