What does Ash Wednesday celebrate?
Ash Wednesday is a Christian holiday. It begins the season of Lent, which is 40 days, not counting Sundays, of fasting and repentance prior to the celebration of Easter.
When is Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday occurs 46 days before Easter. Since Easter moves around on the calendar, so does Ash Wednesday. The earliest the day can occur is February 4th and the latest is March 10th.
Here are some dates for Ash Wednesday:
- February 22, 2012
- February 13, 2013
- March 5, 2014
- February 18, 2015
- February 10, 2016
- March 1, 2017
- February 14, 2018
- March 6, 2019
- February 26, 2020
Many Christians attend an Ash Wednesday service at their church. During this service the priest or minister may rub the sign of the cross on their foreheads using ashes. The ashes represent mourning and repentance. Sometimes the ashes are gathered from the burning of the palms from the previous year's Palm Sunday.
Christians often fast on Ash Wednesday. They are allowed to have one full meal and two smaller meals, but many fast for the day on bread and water. They also do not eat meat on this day.
Fasting may continue throughout Lent and especially on Good Friday. In addition to fasting, Christians often give up something for Lent as an offer of sacrifice. This usually is something people enjoy like eating chocolate, playing video games, hot water for showers, or even sleeping in a bed.
History of Ash Wednesday
The day of Ash Wednesday is not mentioned in the Bible, but it is in honor of events that occurred in the Bible. The 40 days of Lent are meant to signify the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert getting tempted by the devil. The dusting of Ashes is mentioned in the Bible as a sign of mourning and repentance. The cross drawn on the forehead symbolizes the cross that Jesus died on to cleanse the world of its sins.
It is believed that Ash Wednesday was first observed in the Middle Ages around the 8th century. It was first called the Day of Ashes. Since then the practice has become an annual ritual in many Christian churches including Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists.
Facts About Ash Wednesday
- Ash Wednesday occurs the day after Mardi Gras or the last day of carnival.
- In the Middle Ages ashes were sprinkled on the head rather than drawn in a cross on the forehead.
- Many people keep the ashes on their forehead for the entire day. It is a sign that they are sinners and need God's forgiveness.
- Since observing Ash Wednesday is not commanded in the Bible, it is an optional in some Christian churches to observe it. This includes Lent as well.
- The period of 40 days is often used in the Bible.
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