Ash Wednesday 2021: Why do people celebrate it? What is the significance?

Ash Wednesday 2020: Why do people celebrate it? What is the significance?

Ash Wednesday 2021: Why do people celebrate it? What is the significance?

What is Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is the first day of the Lenten season, a period of 40-some days focused on spiritual purification and repentance. It is a day of fasting for several denominations of Christian churches. Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of the distribution of ashes upon the foreheads of Christians. These ashes are generally created from the palms that were used at the previous year’s Palm Sunday. They are blessed before the service.

The ashes are meant to remind Christians about human mortality, while also showing the individual’s desire for repentance and mourning of their own sins. As the priest or minister puts the ash on the body they say “Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return” (Genesis 3:19) or “Repent, and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).

Christians are encouraged to wear the ashes, which can be distributed on either their forehead or hand, until the ashes wear off as a public declaration of their faith.

When is Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is February 26 this year. It is always the day after Fat Tuesday (also known as Shrove Tuesday).

  • READ MORE: What is Fat Tuesday? Is it the same as Mardi Gras? And when is it?

Do you have to fast?

According to Catholic doctrine, believers between 18 and 59 in good health can choose to consume just one full meal on that day, or two smaller meals. Fasting as depicted in the Bible is to be done discreetly, so as not to draw attention to the person fasting. Fasting is not about showing off, instead it is a deeply personal endeavor and is to be between God and the person fasting only.

Do I have to be Catholic?

No. Many churches have their own Ash Wednesday service, which involves the imposition of the ashes, including Episcopalian, Methodist and Lutheran churches. Typically this is found in high churches, or more traditional churches (the kinds with incense and a strictly followed liturgy), as opposed to the more contemporary churches.

This story has been adapted from a 2014 article. It has been corrected to reflect changing attitudes on the celebration of Lent in Anabaptist and Baptist communities.

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