Ash Wednesday is a Christian Holy Day of prayer, fasting and repentance. It is preceded by Shrove Tuesday and falls on the first day of Lent, the six weeks of penitence before Easter.
Lent is celebrated as the season of preparation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday and seen as an opportunity to change what we ought within ourselves but have not.
Christians ought to spend more time praying and reflecting as Lent is seen as an opportunity to transform one’s self spiritually.
Below are 10 interesting facts about Ash Wednesday:
1. The Christian holy day marks the beginning of Lent, a 40-day season of fasting that is considered preparation for Holy Week and the celebration of Easter.
2. As described in the book of Matthew, Lent mirrors Jesus’ personal 40-day period of fasting.
3. Although there is no Biblical reference to Ash Wednesday or Lent, Christians date the tradition back to 325 AD.
4. Observers have ashes placed on their foreheads in the shape of the cross as the words from Genesis 3:19 are spoken: “You are dust, and to dust, you shall return.”
5. The ashes are made by burning the blessed palms that were distributed the previous year on Palm Sunday.
6. People leave the ashes on their heads as a sign of humility
7. Ash Wednesday is observed by many Christians, including Anglicans, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Old Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics and some Baptists.
8. In the Roman Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday is observed by fasting, abstinence from meat and repentance – a day of contemplating one’s transgressions
9. While not specifically instituted in the Bible text, the 40-day period of repentance is also analogous to the 40 days during which Moses repented and fasted in response to the making of the Golden calf.
10. The earliest date Ash Wednesday can occur is 4 February and the latest date Ash Wednesday can occur is 10 March.