The History of Ash Wednesday
Wednesday, Feb. 22 was Ash Wednesday. This marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection and fasting, which prepares many Christians for Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
The ashes are made from the palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. They are blessed with Holy Water and are scented with incense. On Ash Wednesday, many from the Christian religion get these sacred ashes spread across their foreheads as a reminder to many that God is gracious and merciful.
Once Ash Wednesday is over, the Season of Lent begins. For exactly 40 days different Christian denominations (mainly Catholics, but others participate as well) fast and practice abstinence. The fasting and abstinence laws are very simple–during Ash Wednesday and Good Friday it is the faithful fast (having only one full meal a day and smaller snacks to keep up on strength) and abstain from meat.
People who follow these guidelines loosely are still encouraged to “give up something” for Lent as a sacrifice. For example one could give up chocolate for Lent.
In general, the Season of Lent is meant to put and emphasis on spiritual works, like attending mass. The Stations of the Cross and taking time for personal prayer is another focal point of Lent. But mainly, it is a refocus of Christian values that many cherish.