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Ash Wednesday is a holiday celebrated within Western Christian denominations. It also marks the first day of Lent, which is the time between Ash Wednesday and the Easter Holiday. Christians celebrate the six weeks leading up to Easter through reflections and rituals of repentance. The observance of the holiday is thought to date back as far as the eighth century.
Since Easter Sunday doesn’t have a set date, Ash Wednesday does not have a designated date either. Generally, it is set 46 days before Easter. For this reason, Ash Wednesday can occur between February 4th and March 10th. In 2013, the holiday is set for February 13th.
Observations and Rituals
Ash Wednesday is an important day in many Christian faiths, as it indicates Easter Sunday is near. According to the Bible, Good Friday was the day Jesus Christ was crucified for the sins of mankind, and he was resurrected the following Sunday, better known as Easter. This weekend of the year is considered the most important in Christianity, and many followers take special time to recognize and reflect on their faith. Ash Wednesday is utilized to help Christians remember their faith and to find opportunities to be better humans in accordance to their religion.
On Ash Wednesday, many churches hold special services that are separate from the usual Sunday ceremonies. Depending on the church, the services may be offered in the early morning or late evening to accommodate schedules. Some churches even offer Ash Wednesday services all day long.
The holiday is called Ash Wednesday because of an old ritual in which people covered themselves with ashes. Such customs are outlined in the Bible as far back as the Old Testament. For this reason, many churches participate in a custom in which ashes are marked in the shape of a cross on the foreheads of church-goers.
While ashes seem to be the center of the rituals of this holiday, Christians celebrate Ash Wednesday in a number of other ways, too. For example, some people give something up for the entire Lent, such as a favorite food or a bad habit in order to recognize the sacrifices of Jesus. Other people may confess sins to their preachers or take the opportunity to write them down and repent in private. Also, many people don’t eat meat derived from poultry and mammals on Ash Wednesday, a custom that is similar to that of Good Friday.
Ash Wednesday is a Christian holiday, but not all denominations observe it. The holiday is primarily observed by Roman Catholics as well as Lutherans, Baptists, Presbyterians and Methods. Catholics traditionally embrace the traditions of Ash Wednesday on a stricter basis. For instance, many adult followers fast for the entire day by eating just one meal. Eastern Orthodox Christians do not observe Ash Wednesday, although they do celebrate Lent.
The rituals of Ash Wednesday are questioned by some, as critics point out that the Bible doesn’t outline any requirements for any such ceremonies. However, church-goers interpret certain sections of the Bible of repentance through Ash Wednesday as a way of recognizing the sacrifices of Jesus Christ.
Ash Wednesday Gift Ideas