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Paul Turner: 2018 is when silliness and religion collide

This file photo displays the annual decorating with hearts of downtown Montpelier, Vermont. In 2018, Valentines Day is also Ash Wednesday. Paul Turner has a few suggestions on how to handle this collision of cultures. (Toby Talbot / AP)

A couple of significant cultural collisions loom on the 2018 calendar.

My friend Florence Young brought this to my attention.

First, Ash Wednesday is on Valentine’s Day this year.

Talk about an odd couple.

One is the somber start of Lent. The other tends to be one of America’s silliest exercises in the marketing of sentiment and manufactured guilt.

And then, on April 1, Easter Sunday also happens to be April Fools’ Day.

Christians, atheists, start your engines.

Where to begin?

Let’s first consider the Ash Wednesday/Valentine’s Day mashup.

For those who observe the start of Lent, this calendar double-down has the potential to seriously sober up Valentine’s Day, traditionally one of America’s more mindlessly commercial special occasions – even if you call it St. Valentine’s Day.

Though perhaps I should just speak for myself here. I’m sure many admire marriage proposals on arena Jumbotrons and strippers showing up in the accounting department to serenade someone with a romantic recorded song and a few moments of gruesome dance.

Think about it. Ash Wednesday, the day after Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), can be about somber reflection, ash-smudged foreheads and fasting. Valentine’s Day, though it can be sweet and sincere, I suppose, often tends to be a celebration of canned ideas about love and utterly predictable off-the-rack gestures.

The two days would not seem to have much in common. But perhaps one observance can learn from the other.

You know how old-school Lent used to be (and still is in some minds) at least partly about giving something up during the period before Easter? Well, what if, in 2018, we embraced the concept of giving something up for Valentine’s Day?

Use your imagination. It could be anything.

Maybe you could give up leaving towels on the floor. Or always bringing up that one 2007 fight every time things get tense on the homefront. Or, well, you can come up with your own list.

Perhaps we might even consider giving up certain unoriginal, uninspired aspects of Valentine’s Day and replacing them with something better than a box of candy.

It’s your call. One might argue, though, that love deserves our best.

Easter and April Fools’ Day cohabiting on the same day raises other questions.

For instance, can anything jocular be expressed about Easter that is not in extremely poor taste?

Can one celebrate the sacred underpinnings of Christianity and engage in broad April Fools’ Day humor on the same day?

Different people might have different answers. But maybe it’s worth noting that “Mystery Science Theater 3000” never took on “Ben-Hur.” (Or, to be fair, any other decent movie.)

Still, for at least a few nonbelievers, the confluence of the two special days is certain to be greeted with undisguised glee.

My friend Florence, who pointed out these calendar collisions, is skeptical about the possibility of meaningful cross-over observances. She’s probably right.

But we’ll have to see. When Feb. 14 and April 1 roll around, some of us will have choices to make.

Or not. Maybe 2018 will be the year when we really can have it all.

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