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12 Things You Should Know About Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

Pope Francis (R) blesses a nun during the Ash Wednesday mass which opens Lent, the forty-day period of abstinence and deprivation for Christians before Holy Week and Easter, on March 6, 2019 at the Santa Sabina church in Rome. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images)

On your way to work, school or wherever your business of the day is, you are most likely to have come into contact with commuters with the sign of the cross on their foreheads.

In case you are wondering why these individuals have ash on their forehead or maybe you are even one of such individuals, today is an important date in the Christian calendar as faith members observe Ash Wednesday.

What exactly is Ash Wednesday? Keep reading below to find out facts about the day.

  • Ash Wednesday gets its name from early traditions in the Christian Church in Rome when penitents and sinners would partake in a period of public penance.
  • Ash Wednesday – officially known as the Day of Ashes – is a day of repentance, when Christians confess their sins and profess their devotion to God.
  • The religious holiday follows Shrove Tuesday – aka Pancake Day – and signals the coming of the Lent.
  • Ash Wednesday falls on a different day each year because it is dependent on the date of Easter.
  • Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent and falls six and a half weeks before Easter.
  • Lent is marked by placing ashes in the shape of a cross on observers’ foreheads.
  • The ashes come from burning palms used on Palm Sunday. They are then blessed before being used in the ceremony.
  • The ashes symbolise both death and repentance. During this period, Christians show repentance and mourning for their sins, because they believe Christ died for them.
  • Catholics are not supposed to eat meat on Ash Wednesday. They also are expected to give up meat on Fridays during Lent.
  • Catholics also are expected to fast on Ash Wednesday. According to Catholic doctrine, believers between 18 and 59 in good health can choose to consume just one full meal on that day, or two smaller meals.
  • Children and the elderly are exempt from the fasting requirement on Ash Wednesday and during Lent.
  • It is not required that a worshiper wear the ashes for the rest of the day, although many Christians choose to do so.
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