Ash Wednesday is marked 46 days before Easter Sunday. Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent – which is the period of self-restraint and abstention for Christians prior to Easter. It marks the first day of fasting, repentance, prayer and self-control.
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. Ash Wednesday is observed by many Christians, including Anglicans, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Old Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, and some Baptists.
Ash Wednesday derives its name from the placing of repentance ashes on the foreheads of participants to either the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or the dictum “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. “The ashes may be prepared by burning palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations.
Because it is the first day of Lent, many Christians, on Ash Wednesday, often begin marking a Lenten calendar, praying a Lenten daily devotional, and abstaining from a luxury that they will not partake of until Easter arrives.
Fasting and Abstinence
Many Christian denominations emphasize fasting, as well as abstinence during the season of Lent and in particular, on its first day, Ash Wednesday. The First Council of Nicæa spoke of Lent as a period of fasting for forty days, in preparation for Eastertide. In many places, Christians historically abstained from food for a whole day until the evening, and at sunset, Western Christians traditionally broke the Lenten fast, which is often known as the Black Fast. In India and Pakistan, many Christians continue this practice of fasting until sunset on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, with some fasting in this manner throughout the whole season of Lent.
In the Roman Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday is observed by fasting, abstinence from meat, and repentance – a day of contemplating one’s transgressions. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Roman Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 (whose health enables them to do so) are permitted to consume one full meal, along with two smaller meals, which together should not equal the full meal. Some Catholics will go beyond the minimum obligations put forth by the Church and undertake a complete fast or a bread and water fast until sunset. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are also days of abstinence from meat (mammals and fowl), as are all Fridays during Lent.
(Information from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)