While the European folk traditions connected with Saint Valentine and St. Valentine's Day have become marginalized by the modern Anglo-American customs connecting the day with romantic love, there are some remaining associations connecting the saint with the advent of spring.
While the custom of sending cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts originated in the UK, Valentine's Day still remains connected with various regional customs in England. In Norfolk, a character called 'Jack' Valentine knocks on the rear door of houses leaving sweets and presents for children. Although he was leaving treats, many children were scared of this mystical person.
"For this was on St. Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate."
"Though the memorial of Saint Valentine is ancient, it is left to particular calendars, since, apart from his name, nothing is known of Saint Valentine except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on February 14."
Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting, is the first day of Lent in Western Christianity. It occurs 46 days before Easter and can fall as early as 4 February or as late as 10 March. Ash Wednesday is observed by many Western Christian denominations.
According to the canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan. Lent originated as a mirroring of this, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter. Every Sunday was seen as a commemoration of the Sunday of Christ's resurrection and so as a feast day on which fasting was inappropriate. Accordingly, Christians fasted from Monday to Saturday (6 days) during 6 weeks and from Wednesday to Saturday (4 days) in the preceding week, thus making up the number of 40 days.
Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of blessing ashes made from palm branches blessed on the previous year Palm Sunday, and placing them on the heads of participants to the accompaniment of the words "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" or "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return".