Why do we get ashes on Ash Wednesday? Reason for Holy Day tradition, where ashes come from, do you wear them

Ash Wednesday sees many Christians partake in the day of repentance

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Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent and is known officially as the Day of Ashes.

In 2022, Ash Wednesday commences on 2 March where many Christians will go to church to confess their sins and profess their devotion to God.

The marking symbolism for Ash Wednesday is a cross on the forehead of many Western Christians.

But why do Christians wear ash, and what does Ash Wednesday symbolise?

Why do some Christians wear ash on Ash Wednesday? 

Ash Wednesday is a day of repentance, where many Christians go to church for Ash Wednesday services.

During the services, a priest, minister or pastor, places ashes on a worshipper’s forehead in the shape of a cross.

This ceremony is meant to show that a person belongs to Jesus Christ. It also depicts a person’s grief and mourning for their sins.

The ashes symbolise death and repentance, emphasised by the words the Priest says when applying the cross on the forehead: "Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return" or “Repent and believe in the Gospel".

Christians show repentance and mourning for their sins because of their belief Jesus died for them.

Although it is not required to wear the ashes for the rest of the day, many worshippers choose to do so.

Many Christians believe it to be inappropriate to dine or partake in any non-essential shopping due to the gravitas of this Holy Day.

Where do the Ashes come from?

The ashes used on Ash Wednesday are made from the burning of palms blessed in the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebration.

This celebration sees Christians carrying palms to recognise the Gospels’ reference to Jesus’s path being covered in palm fronds on the day he entered Jerusalem.

On Palm Sunday, the churches bless and hand out the palm fronds, and the following year the palm fronds are burned to create the ashes for Ash Wednesday. The ashes are sometimes mixed with Holy Water or oil and carry scents of incense.

What are the traditions of Ash Wednesday? 

As Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, so many Christians prepare to make their Lenten sacrifice of something that they will not partake in until Easter, which is 47 days away.

Some Christian sects such as Catholicism are expected to give up meat on Fridays during Lent and are expected to fast on Ash Wednesday.

In this instance, fasting means eating only one full meal a day.

Some Catholics undertake a Black Fast, also known as a strict fast, where no food is allowed during the day - but water is allowed.

Traditionally, the Black Fast is undertaken during Lent, and in some parts of the world such as India and Pakistan, Christians continue to observe the Black Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

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