Time & Location
About The Event
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. It occurs forty-six days before Easter, but Lent is nevertheless considered forty days long, because Sundays in this period are not counted as days of penance. It falls on different dates from year to year, according to the date of Easter; it can occur as early as February 4 or as late as March 10.
At Masses and Services of worship on this day, worshippers are blessed with ashes by the celebrating priest or minister. The priest or minister marks the forehead of each participant with black ashes, in the shape of a cross, which the worshipper traditionally retains until washing it off after sundown.
The symbolism echoes the ancient Near Eastern tradition of throwing ash over one's head signifying repentance before God (as related numerous times in the Bible). The priest or minister offers the worshipper an instruction while applying the ashes, "Remember, that you are dust And unto dust you shall return." This wording comes from Genesis 3:19.
The ashes are prepared by burning palm leaves from the previous year's Palm Sunday celebrations and mixing them with olive oil as a fixative. Ash Wednesday is often observed by fasting, abstinence (from meat), and repentance—a day of contemplating one's transgressions.