Ash Wednesday: What does it signify?
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Ash Wednesday will this year take place on February 17. It is preceded by Shrove Tuesday which is known colloquially as Pancake Day. This special day in the Christian calendar takes its name from the placing of repentance ashes on the foreheads of participants.
Tuesday, February 16, marks Shrove Tuesday this year.
Shrove Tuesday, observed in many Christian countries, is the day before Ash Wednesday and is known as Pancake Day.
On Shrove Tuesday, traditionally celebrants participate in confession and absolution, the ritual burning of the previous year’s Holy Week palms and finalising of one’s Lenten sacrifice.
People eat pancakes and sweets as it is known as a “carnival day” before a period of fasting begins for Lent.
Ash Wednesday is traditionally observed by Western Christians and marks the first day of Lent.
The date of Ash Wednesday comes after Shrove Tuesday but is also contingent on when Easter is each year.
Ash Wednesday always occurs six and a half weeks before Easter.
This year, Good Friday and Easter Sunday will take place April 2 and 4 respectively.
Ash Wednesday is a day of penitence to clean the soul before the Lent fast begins.
The day gets its name from the traditional blessing of the ashes after burning the Palm branches or crosses made from Palm leaves, from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations.
In the Christian faith, Lent is a six-week period of reflection and preparation for Easter.
During Lent, the Christian church and celebrants use the period to pray and show penitence.
Typically many people observe Lent by surrendering a particular vice such as their favourite foods, drinking or smoking for the duration.
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Part of Ash Wednesday tradition is attending church services where ashes are drawn in a cross on those who are due to begin Lent.
The drawing of a cross is often done while repeating the words “Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15) or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).
At some other churches, the service ends with the ashes being washed off as a sign that the participants have been cleansed of their sins.
Ash Wednesday marks a day or remorse nestled between the excesses of Shrove Tuesday and the disciplined fasting of Lent.
As part of Ash Wednesday tradition, many Christians abstain from all but bread and water until sunset.
The period of Lent is marked by fasting, both from food and festivities.
This abstinence continues until Easter which is marked with a grand feast.
Easter is when worshippers observe the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and celebrate his resurrection after his death on the cross.
Ideas for what to give up for Lent
Many people opt to give up something they love for Lent.
In recent years, it is not only sweets and other treats which people have given up for Lent, but actions or bad habits like gossiping have also been popular choices.
Express.co.uk has compiled a list of some ideas you can consider when deciding what to give up for lent.
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