Ash Wednesday is a Catholic holiday that marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. This period of fasting can start anytime between February 4 and March 10, and is traditionally a time of religious reflection and atonement. Ash Wednesday prepares Catholics for Easter Sunday, which celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
One tradition of Ash Wednesday is to receive ashes. The ashes in today’s services are made from blessed palms that were used on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. After the palms are burned, the ashes are christened with Holy Water, scented with incense, and placed on Catholics’ foreheads as a reminder of their humility and sacrifice. Beyond being a symbol of penance, the ashes also serve as a reminder that God is merciful to those who wish to repent.
If you are a practicing Catholic, celebrate today by going to Church and receiving ashes. Today is also the perfect day to learn more about the tradition and teachings of the Catholic Church.