Easter is around the corner, the chocolate eggs have already begun flooding the grocery stores and colleagues in the office have already begun planning their holidays. However, there is a date preceding all of the fun of the Easter egg hunts, bunny footprints, family get togethers’ and school breaks. What is this day, I hear, you wonder. Well, it is none other than Ash Wednesday, this day is a Christian holy day celebrated within on an annual basis each year in the run up towards Easter.
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent for the various Christian and Catholic communities around the world, this day is marked by a religious service where followers of Christianity gather in a Church for a service of penitence. During this service the Christianswill receive the holy ashes marked within the shape of a cross on their foreheads. Unfortunately, during the day the mark of the cross fades, and eventually it looks as if the person smeared a bit of black dust on their forehead by accident, however there is a meaningful purpose behind the action.
The ashes are gathered from the remains of the palm pieces that were burned after the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations. Palm Sunday is the religious holiday within the Christian calendar where Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of Donkey and was heralded by a large crowd of people some of whom were holding palm leaves to fan him with. But, we digress, back to Ash Wednesday. Before each Christian believer receives the holy ashes the priest says unto them ‘From dust you came and to dust you shall return,’ which is a line from Genesis chapter 3 verse 19.
This might not seem incredibly productive; however there is reason behind those sombre words. The day before lent is Shrove Tuesday where people pig out on pancakes, if you haven’t heard of Shrove Tuesday then you have probably heard of Mardi Gras which is the huge festival the day before Lent to celebrate before entering into a time of reflection. Lent lasts for longer than 40 days and 40 nights, however the vast majority of Churches choose to overlook all Sundays within this timeframe and also because 40 probably seems a lot more manageable than 46 days. Well, at least that’s how it sounds when you’re considering giving up sugar or pasta for any amount of time.
Ash Wednesday is no longer only observed by the Roman Catholic church, many other Liturgical churches such as Methodists and Presbyterians are choosing to observe the religious holy day as well now. The most exciting part of this story is that ashes have come into the twenty first century. Many churches will now offer the opportunity to receive your ashes at the train or bus station or at very popular malls to ensure that all people have the opportunity to engage in the day. An interesting fact regarding the holiday is that there is no mention of Ash Wednesday in the Bible up until the tenth century thanks to a monk and from the 11th century onwards it caught rapid fire.
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Woman with ashes on head
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