Ash Wednesday is a holy day of prayer and fasting for many Christians. It marks the first day of Lent and is usually observed by Western Christians, such as the Roman Rite Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, and more from the reformed tradition.
On this day, many Christians attend special church services where they will receive ash on their foreheads - sometimes in the form of a cross.
But when exactly is Ash Wednesday 2023 and what does the day symbolise?
When is Ash Wednesday 2023?
In 2023, Ash Wednesday falls on Wednesday 22 February. It is an annual event and always comes after Shrove Tuesday.
Although linked together, the two days of Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday contrast completely. Ash Wednesday is more sombre than the bright and joyous celebration of Shrove Tuesday.
Ash Wednesday falls between February and March in the Gregorian calendar and marks the beginning of Lent.
What does Ash Wednesday symbolise?
Many Christians recognise Ash Wednesday as a chance to reconnect with themselves and start the Christian season with a clean slate.
As this Holy Day marks the start of Lent, a period of 40 days before Easter, many people choose to attend Church services.
During the Church services, repentance ashes are placed on the foreheads of participants to the words of "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" or "Remember that you are dust and to dust, you shall return".
The ashes are prepared by burning palm leaves from the previous years Palm Sunday celebrations.
Ashes are ceremonially placed on the heads of Christians by either being sprinkled on their head or, in the West, having their forehead marked by a visible cross.
Ashes symbolise both death and repentance, and using ash helps worshipers remember their sinfulness and mortality, and the need to repent in time.
How is Ash Wednesday observed?
As Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, many Christians use this time day to pray for strength and courage to carry out their planned sacrifices throughout the next 40 days.
Choosing what to sacrifice usually occurs the days before Lent, and takes the form of sugar, chocolate, TV, social media and alcohol.
Some Christians choose to fast where Western Christians traditionally break the Lenten fast at sunset also known as the Black Fast.
In countries such as India and Pakistan, some Christians fast until sunset on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday with some manner of fasting within the 40 days of Lent.
In Roman Catholicism, Ash Wednesday is observed by fasting, abstinence from meat, and repentance.
For Lutherans, some parishes teach communities to fast on Ash Wednesday, with some people opting to fast throughout Lent and on Good Friday.
In the Church of England, the 40 days of Lent are designated days of fasting (defined as not more than a light breakfast, one full meal and one-half meal) and abstinence from flesh meat on all Fridays.