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What is Ash Wednesday? A Few Facts About the Start of Lent

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent in the Western Christian calendar. Do you participate in Ash Wednesday? Tell us why or why not in the comments section.

If you see someone walking around today with a cross made of ash on their forehead, you should know it's Ash Wednesday, the start of the lenten season. A time of cleansing, sacrifice, increased prayer and reflection.

St. Martin de Porres held a Wednesday 8 a.m. music service and mass, and is also having a 7 p.m. music service and mass in honor of Ash, according to its calendar.

Here are a few facts about the time:

Lent does not begin on Ash Wednesday all over the world.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent in the Western Christian calendar. The Eastern Orthodox church typically does not observe Ash Wednesday and begins Lent instead on "Clean Monday."

Ash Wednesday falls 46 days before Easter.

It is known as the "40 days of Lent" because Sunday is not typically counted in Lent. This also leaves believers with a number that is symbolic of the 40 days Christ spent fasting in the wilderness.

On Ash Wednesday, a priest or minister traditionally marks worshipers with ash in the shape of a cross.

A cross symbolizes Christ's crucifixion and repentance. Ashes are placed on the forehead of worshipers in the sign of the cross as a symbol of repentance and mortality.

Where do churches typically get the ashes that are used to mark worshipers' foreheads on Ash Wednesday?

They burn the palms from the previous year's Palm Sunday. Jesus was praised and hailed by those waving palm leaves, and later crucified, this symbolizes how quickly people can turn frm God and fall weakness to the flesh.

What day does Ash Wednesday immediately follow?

Mardis Gras, which is French for "Fat Tuesday," is the last night for eating richer, fattier foods before the Lenten ritual of fasting begins. The day is also sometimes called Shrove Tuesday, because worshipers are expected to shrive themselves (confess sins) before Lent begins. There is also Holy Tuesday that occurs during the last week of Lent.

What is the earliest date Ash Wednesday can possibly occur?

February 4. Ash Wednesday is a "moveable feast", which means it falls on different calendar dates in different years. The date is dependent on Easter.

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Sources: www.churchyear.net; www.religionfacts.comwww.catholiceducation.org

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