Five things you need to know about Ash Wednesday

Late start Wednesdays include extra sleep and a trip to Starbucks, but for some Chrisitians arriving at school with a black smudge on their forehead leads to questions. On the eve of the Lenten season, here are things you need to know about Ash Wednesday. 

Quinn Berry
Juniors Bella Allgeyer and Reese Berry laugh over breakfast before heading to class. The two attended the Ash Wednesday mass at Incarnate Word Parish 7 a.m. to celebrate the beginning of the Lenten season. “It’s something that is kind of a necessity to us, that we sacrifice to show that other things are more important,” Allgeyer said.

When is Ash Wednesday celebrated?

Ash Wednesday is always celebrated on the Wednesday 40 days before Easter Sunday. This is most popularly known today as the Wednesday after Mardi Gras celebrations. Mardi Gras, also known as “Fat Tuesday,” is tied to this Christian holiday, as it commemorates one last, huge celebration and feast before the fasting season of Lent. 


What are the ashes made of? 

The ashes are created from the palm leaves given out during a different Lenten feast day of the previous year called Palm Sunday

“The significance is the palms from Palm Sunday turn into the ashes that we put on our heads, and it represents that we are sacrificing something and the palms that represent ones that Jesus walked on,” junior Bella Allgeyer said. 

Monica Cabrera/The Morning Call
The Rev. Jerome Tauber, pastor of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Hellertown, collects the fronds from parishioners in the weeks leading up to Lent and burns to ash for Ash Wednesday.

What are other traditions associated with Lent? 

One of the most famous traditions of the Lenten season is for adults to fast and refrain from eating meat on Fridays. 

“[Meat is] something that is kind of a necessity to us, so we sacrifice that to show that other things are more important,” Allegeyer said. 

This leads to a rise in large parish fish fries, which are advertised near churches and open to the public on Friday nights. These events can be viewed as a way to meet others and connect with different people of shared faith over a meal of fried fish during the time of fasting. 

“The whole church just comes together and it’s really just a community for your church every Friday,” freshman Sammi Milholland said. 


What is the significance of Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the 40 day Lenten season. The Lenten season is in preparation for Easter, which will be celebrated Sunday, April 12. 

“Lent is a 40 day period of time where we give ourselves and sacrifice something to, even though it doesn’t really closely compare to what Jesus did, resemble the sacrifices that He made and having us do that to show our faith and how important it is to us. It shows how we want to grow and change to become closer to God,” Allgeyer said. 

Lent is the season during the 40 days before Easter, mirroring the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert. The focus of Lent is on fasting and cleansing, as many people give up things such as desserts, television or other unhealthy habits during this time, as they prepare for the resurrection of Jesus Christ by working to grow closer to God. 

“It’s because Jesus came on Earth and went through forty day in the desert. We’re not going through forty days in the desert, but we give up something just to have even a little taste of what He went through for us,” sophomore Betsy Weaver said. 

Monica Cabrera/The Morning Call
The palm fronds handed out to Catholics on Palm Sunday to commemorate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem start out green and flexible and, over the months, grow brown and brittle. But they still serve a purpose. They are burnt into the ashes placed on the foreheads of the faithful on Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the penitential season of Lent.

What is the significance of the ashes? 

Receiving ashes is a part of a service that practicing Christian churches provide throughout Ash Wednesday. The ashes provide a symbolic mark of faith, as people wear the ashes throughout the everyday activities of their lives on Ash Wednesday. 

“We wear the ashes to show that we love Jesus and we love our religion and we’re committed to our faith, so we’re not necessarily advertising it everyone, but we’re showing everyone that we are in that community and into it so much that we are willing to wear ashes, an outward sign,” sophomore Allie Judd said.