Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, a time for repentance and penitence. The significance of ashes goes back to ancient times, when the penitent would express remorse for their sins by dusting themselves with ashes.
In the Western Christian calendar, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and occurs forty-six days before Easter.
During Ash Wednesday Masses and religious services, priests or ministers mark the forehead of the worshipper with a cross of black ashes.
This tradition mirrors that of the ancient Near Eastern practice of throwing ash over one’s head to show repentance before God.