Ash Wednesday History
Ash Wednesday is mainly a Catholic observance in which ashes is marked on the forehead of parishioners in the shape of a cross. The ashes are meant as a reminder of our mortality and sinfulness.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a 40 day period (excluding Sundays) that ends with Easter. This is a solemn period observed by prayer, repentance, fasting, and moderation. Sundays are excluded as they are considered a celebratory day that represents the resurrection of Jesus and the Sabbath day of rest.
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Ash Wednesday References and Related Sitesw2.vatican.va: Pope Paul VI on Fast and Abstinence