Ash Wednesday or Valentine's Day? This year it's a choice between them

It's a problem for Christians who believe in true romance. For this year, Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine's Day.

The latter is devoted not really to the (possibly legendary) 3rd-century Roman saint and martyr, but to a more earthly kind of love. It's a great day for card shops, flower sellers, chocolate manufacturers and restaurants, which put their prices up to make the occasion feel even more special.

Cards, chocolates, flowers – but does Valentine's Day really go with Ash Wednesday?Valentine's Day

Of course it can be a lovely way of telling your spouse or significant other how much you care about them. Get it wrong, on the other hand – a hasty trip to the supermarket on the day before to find all the decent cards have gone, your favourite restaurant fully booked, or worst of all, just plain forgetting – and there are Consequences.

Not all Christians observe Ash Wednesday as a day of fasting and abstinence particularly strictly. But for some, it's a real clash. In Chicago, for instance, according to the Catholic Herald, the archdiocese has been receiving enquiries from Catholics wondering if they can have a 'dispensation' to mark the largely secular celebration of Valentine's Day' instead of the first day of Lent. The answer is a categorical 'No, you can't.'

Helpfully, though, the archdiocese has suggested celebrating Valentine's Day the previous day, Shrove Tuesday, instead – traditionally a day of festivity anyway.

It won't please die-hard romantic traditionalists, but there's a silver lining to their cloud: a restaurant on February 13 is likely to be a good deal cheaper.