Ash Wednesday is a Christian holy day of prayer and fasting. It is preceded by Shrove Tuesday and falls on the first day of Lent, the six weeks of penitence before Easter. Ash Wednesday is traditionally observed by Western Christians. Most Latin Rite Roman Catholics observe it, as do some Protestants like Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, some Reformed churches, Baptists, Nazarenes and Independent Catholics.
As it is the first day of Lent, Christians begin Ash Wednesday by marking a Lenten calendar, praying a Lenten daily devotional, and abstaining from a luxury that they will not partake of until Eastertide arrives.
Ash Wednesday derives its name from the placing of repentance ashes on the foreheads of participants to either the words "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" or the dictum "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." The ashes are prepared by burning palm leaves from the previous year's Palm Sunday celebrations.
A cross marked from ash or dust on a worshiper's forehead
|Observed by||Many Christians|
|Observances||Holy Mass, Service of worship, Divine Service, Divine Liturgy|
Placing of ashes on the head
|Date||Wednesday in seventh week before Easter|
|2018 date||February 14|
|2019 date||March 6|
|2020 date||February 26|
|2021 date||February 17|
|Related to||Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras|
Many Christian denominations emphasize fasting, as well as abstinence during the season of Lent and in particular, on its first day, Ash Wednesday. The First Council of Nicæa spoke of Lent as a period of fasting for forty days, in preparation for Eastertide. In many places, Christians historically abstained from food for a whole day until the evening, and at sunset, Western Christians traditionally broke the Lenten fast, which is often known as the Black Fast. In India and Pakistan, many Christians continue this practice of fasting until sunset on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, with some fasting in this manner throughout the whole season of Lent.
In the Roman Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday is observed by fasting, abstinence from meat, and repentance – a day of contemplating one's transgressions. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Roman Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 (whose health enables them to do so) are permitted to consume one full meal, along with two smaller meals, which together should not equal the full meal. Some Catholics will go beyond the minimum obligations put forth by the Church and undertake a complete fast or a bread and water fast until sunset. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are also days of abstinence from meat (mammals and fowl), as are all Fridays during Lent. Some Roman Catholics continue fasting throughout Lent, as was the Church's traditional requirement, concluding only after the celebration of the Easter Vigil. Where the Ambrosian Rite is observed, the day of fasting and abstinence is postponed to the first Friday in the Ambrosian Lent, nine days later.
A number of Lutheran parishes teach communicants to fast on Ash Wednesday, with some people choosing to continue doing so throughout the entire season of Lent, especially on Good Friday. One Lutheran congregation's A Handbook for the Discipline of Lent recommends that the faithful "Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday with only one simple meal during the day, usually without meat".
In the Church of England, and throughout much of the Worldwide Anglican Communion, the entire forty days of Lent are designated days of fasting, while the Fridays are also designated as days of abstinence in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, with the Traditional Saint Augustine's Prayer Book: A Book of Devotion for Members of the Anglican Communion defining "Fasting, usually meaning not more than a light breakfast, one full meal, and one half meal, on the forty days of Lent." The same text defines abstinence as refraining from flesh meat on all Fridays of the Church Year, except for those during Christmastide.
There is a strong biblical base for fasting, particularly during the 40 days of Lent leading to the celebration of Easter. Jesus, as part of his spiritual preparation, went into the wilderness and fasted 40 days and 40 nights, according to the Gospels.
Rev. Jacqui King, the minister of Nu Faith Community United Methodist Church in Houston explained the philosophy of fasting during Lent as "I'm not skipping a meal because in place of that meal I'm actually dining with God".
The Reformed Church in America describes Ash Wednesday as a day "focused on prayer, fasting, and repentance." The liturgy for Ash Wednesday thus contains the following "Invitation to Observe a Lenten Discipline" read by the presider:
We begin this holy season by acknowledging our need for repentance and our need for the love and forgiveness shown to us in Jesus Christ. I invite you, therefore, in the name of Christ, to observe a Holy Lent, by self-examination and penitence, by prayer and fasting, by practicing works of love, and by reading and reflecting on God's Holy Word.
Ashes are ceremonially placed on the heads of Christians on Ash Wednesday, either by being sprinkled over their heads or, in English-speaking countries, more often by being marked on their foreheads as a visible cross. The words (based on Genesis 3:19) used traditionally to accompany this gesture are, "Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris." ("Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.") This custom is credited to Pope Gregory I the Great (c. 540–604). In the 1969 revision of the Roman Rite, an alternative formula (based on Mark 1:15) was introduced and given first place "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" and the older formula was translated as "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." The old formula, based on the words spoken to Adam and Eve after their sin, reminds worshippers of their sinfulness and mortality and thus, implicitly, of their need to repent in time. The newer formula makes explicit what was only implicit in the old.
Various manners of placing the ashes on worshippers' heads are in use within the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, the two most common being to use the ashes to make a cross on the forehead and sprinkling the ashes over the crown of the head. Originally, the ashes were strewn over men's heads, but, probably because women had their heads covered in church, were placed on the foreheads of women. In the Catholic Church the manner of imposing ashes depends largely on local custom, since no fixed rule has been laid down. Although the account of Ælfric of Eynsham shows that in about the year 1000 the ashes were "strewn" on the head, the marking of the forehead is the method that now prevails in English-speaking countries and is the only one envisaged in the Occasional Offices of the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea, a publication described as "noticeably Anglo-Catholic in character". In its ritual of "Blessing of Ashes", this states that "the ashes are blessed at the beginning of the Eucharist; and after they have been blessed they are placed on the forehead of the clergy and people." The Ash Wednesday ritual of the Church of England, Mother Church of the Anglican Communion, contains "The Imposition of Ashes" in its Ash Wednesday liturgy. On Ash Wednesday, the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, traditionally takes part in a penitential procession from the Church of Saint Anselm to the Basilica of Santa Sabina, where, in accordance with the custom in Italy and many other countries, ashes are sprinkled on his head, not smudged on his forehead, and he places ashes on the heads of others in the same way.
The Anglican ritual, used in Papua New Guinea states that, after the blessing of the ashes, "the priest marks his own forehead and then the foreheads of the servers and congregation who come and kneel, or stand, where they normally receive the Blessed Sacrament." The corresponding Catholic ritual in the Roman Missal for celebration within Mass merely states: "Then the Priest places ashes on the head of those present who come to him, and says to each one ..." Pre-1970 editions had much more elaborate instructions about the order in which the participants were to receive the ashes, but again without any indication of the form of placing the ashes on the head.
The 1969 revision of the Roman Rite inserted into the Mass the solemn ceremony of blessing ashes and placing them on heads, but also explicitly envisaged a similar solemn ceremony outside of Mass. The Book of Blessings contains a simple rite. While the solemn rite would normally be carried out within a church building, the simple rite could appropriately be used almost anywhere. While only a priest or deacon may bless the ashes, laypeople may do the placing of the ashes on a person's head. Even in the solemn rite, lay men or women may assist the priest in distributing the ashes. In addition, laypeople take blessed ashes left over after the collective ceremony and place them on the head of the sick or of others who are unable to attend the blessing. (In 2014, Anglican Liverpool Cathedral likewise offered to impose ashes within the church without a solemn ceremony.)
In addition, those who attend such Catholic services, whether in a church or elsewhere, traditionally take blessed ashes home with them to place on the heads of other members of the family, and it is recommended to have envelopes available to facilitate this practice. At home the ashes are then placed with little or no ceremony.
Unlike its discipline regarding sacraments, the Catholic Church does not exclude from receiving sacramentals, such as the placing of ashes on the head, those who are not Catholics and perhaps not even baptized. Even those who have been excommunicated and are therefore forbidden to celebrate sacramentals are not forbidden to receive them. After describing the blessing, the rite of Blessing and Distribution of Ashes (within Mass) states: "Then the Priest places ashes on the heads of all those present who come to him." The Catholic Church does not limit distribution of blessed ashes to within church buildings and has suggested the holding of celebrations in shopping centres, nursing homes, and factories. Such celebrations presume preparation of an appropriate area and include readings from Scripture (at least one) and prayers, and are somewhat shorter if the ashes are already blessed.
The Catholic Church and the Methodist Church say that the ashes should be those of palm branches blessed at the previous year's Palm Sunday service, while a Church of England publication says they "may be made" from the burnt palm crosses of the previous year. These sources do not speak of adding anything to the ashes other than, for the Catholic liturgy, a sprinkling with holy water when blessing them. An Anglican website speaks of mixing the ashes with a small amount of holy water or olive oil as a fixative.
Where ashes are placed on the head by smudging the forehead with a sign of the cross, many Christians choose to keep the mark visible throughout the day. The churches have not imposed this as an obligatory rule, and the ashes may even be wiped off immediately after receiving them; but some Christian leaders, such as Lutheran pastor Richard P. Bucher and Catholic bishop Kieran Conry, recommend it as a public profession of faith. Morgan Guyton, a Methodist pastor and leader in the Red-Letter Christian movement, encourages Christians to wear their ashed cross throughout the day as an exercise of religious freedom.
Since 2007, some members of major Christian Churches, including Anglicans, Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists, have participated in the Ashes to Go program, in which clergy go outside of their churches to public places, such as downtowns, sidewalks and train stations, to distribute ashes to passersby, even to people waiting in their cars for a stoplight to change. The Anglican priest Emily Mellott of Calvary Church in Lombard took up the idea and turned it into a movement, stated that the practice was also an act of evangelism. Anglicans and Catholics in parts of the United Kingdom such as Sunderland, are offering Ashes to Go together: Marc Lyden-Smith, the priest of Saint Mary's Church, stated that the ecumenical effort is a "tremendous witness in our city, with Catholics and Anglicans working together to start the season of Lent, perhaps reminding those who have fallen away from the Church, or have never been before, that the Christian faith is alive and active in Sunderland." The Catholic Student Association of Kent State University, based at the University Parish Newman Center, offered ashes to university students who were going through the Student Center of that institution in 2012, and Douglas Clark of St. Matthew's Roman Catholic Church in Statesboro, among others, have participated in Ashes to Go. On Ash Wednesday 2017, Father Paddy Mooney, the priest of St Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in the Irish town of Glenamaddy, set up an Ashes to Go station through which commuters could drive and receive ashes from their car; the parish church also had "drive-through prayers during Lent with people submitting requests into a box left in the church grounds without having to leave their car". Reverend Trey Hall, pastor of Urban Village United Methodist Church, stated that when his local church offered ashes in Chicago "nearly 300 people received ashes – including two people who were waiting in their car for a stoplight to change." In 2013, churches not only in the United States, but also at least one church each in the United Kingdom, Canada and South Africa, participated in Ashes to Go. Outside of their church building, Saint Stephen Martyr Lutheran Church in Canton offered Ashes to Go for "believers whose schedules make it difficult to attend a traditional service" in 2016. In the United States itself 34 states and the District of Columbia had at least one church taking part. Most of these churches (parishes) were Episcopal, but there were also several Methodist churches, as well as Presbyterian and Catholic churches.
Robin Knowles Wallace states that the traditional Ash Wednesday church service includes Psalm 51 (the Miserere), prayers of confession and the sign of ashes. No single one of the traditional services contains all of these elements. The Anglican church's traditional Ash Wednesday service, titled A Commination, contains the first two elements, but not the third. On the other hand, the Catholic Church's traditional service has the blessing and distribution of ashes but, while prayers of confession and recitation of Psalm 51 (the first psalm at Lauds on all penitential days, including Ash Wednesday) are a part of its general traditional Ash Wednesday liturgy, they are not associated specifically with the rite of blessing the ashes. The rite of blessing has acquired an untraditional weak association with that particular psalm only since 1970, when it was inserted into the celebration of Mass, at which a few verses of Psalm 51 are used as a responsorial psalm. Coincidentally, it was only about the same time that in some areas Anglicanism resumed the rite of ashes.
In the mid-16th century, the first Book of Common Prayer removed the ceremony of the ashes from the liturgy of the Church of England and replaced it with what would later be called the Commination Office. In that 1549 edition, the rite was headed: "The First Day of Lent: Commonly Called Ash-Wednesday". The ashes ceremony was not forbidden, but was not included in the church's official liturgy. Its place was taken by reading biblical curses of God against sinners, to each of which the people were directed to respond with Amen. The text of the "Commination or Denouncing of God's Anger and Judgments against Sinners" begins: "In the primitive Church there was a godly discipline, that, at the beginning of Lent, such persons as stood convicted of notorious sin were put to open penance, and punished in this world, that their souls might be saved in the day of the Lord; and that others, admonished by their example, might be the more afraid to offend. Instead whereof, until the said discipline may be restored again, (which is much to be wished,) it is thought good that at this time (in the presence of you all) should be read the general sentences of God's cursing against impenitent sinners". In line with this, Joseph Hooper Maude wrote that the establishment of The Commination was due to a desire of the reformers "to restore the primitive practice of public penance in church". He further stated that "the sentences of the greater excommunication" within The Commination corresponded to those used in the ancient Church. The Anglican Church's Ash Wednesday liturgy, he wrote, also traditionally included the Miserere, which, along with "what follows" in the rest of the service (lesser Litany, Lord's Prayer, three prayers for pardon and final blessing), "was taken from the Sarum services for Ash Wednesday". From the Sarum Rite practice in England the service took Psalm 51 and some prayers that in the Sarum Missal accompanied the blessing and distribution of ashes. In the Sarum Rite, the Miserere psalm was one of the seven penitential psalms that were recited at the beginning of the ceremony. In the 20th century, the Episcopal Church introduced three prayers from the Sarum Rite and omitted the Commination Office from its liturgy.
In some of the low church traditions, other practices are sometimes added or substituted, as other ways of symbolizing the confession and penitence of the day. For example, in one common variation, small cards are distributed to the congregation on which people are invited to write a sin they wish to confess. These small cards are brought forth to the altar table where they are burned.
Ashes were used in ancient times to express grief. When Tamar was raped by her half-brother, "she sprinkled ashes on her head, tore her robe, and with her face buried in her hands went away crying" (2 Samuel 13:19). The gesture was also used to express sorrow for sins and faults. In Job 42:3–6, Job says to God: "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." The prophet Jeremiah calls for repentance by saying: "O daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, roll in the ashes" (Jer 6:26). The prophet Daniel recounted pleading to God: "I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes" (Daniel 9:3). Just prior to the New Testament period, the rebels fighting for Jewish independence, the Maccabees, prepared for battle using ashes: "That day they fasted and wore sackcloth; they sprinkled ashes on their heads and tore their clothes" (1 Maccabees 3:47; see also 4:39).
Examples of the practice among Jews are found in several other books of the Bible, including Numbers 19:9, 19:17, Jonah 3:6, Book of Esther 4:1, and Hebrews 9:13. Jesus is quoted as speaking of the practice in Matthew 11:21 and Luke 10:13: "If the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago (sitting) in sackcloth and ashes."
Christians continued the practice of using ashes as an external sign of repentance. Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225) said that confession of sin should be accompanied by lying in sackcloth and ashes. The historian Eusebius (c. 260/265 – 339/340) recounts how a repentant apostate covered himself with ashes when begging Pope Zephyrinus to readmit him to communion.
John W. Fenton writes that "by the end of the 10th century, it was customary in Western Europe (but not yet in Rome) for all the faithful to receive ashes on the first day of the Lenten fast. In 1091, this custom was then ordered by Pope Urban II at the council of Benevento to be extended to the church in Rome. Not long after that, the name of the day was referred to in the liturgical books as "Feria Quarta Cinerum" (i.e., Ash Wednesday)."
The public penance that grave sinners underwent before being admitted to Holy Communion just before Easter lasted throughout Lent, on the first day of which they were sprinkled with ashes and dressed in sackcloth. When, towards the end of the first millennium, the discipline of public penance was dropped, the beginning of Lent, seen as a general penitential season, was marked by sprinkling ashes on the heads of all. This practice is found in the Gregorian Sacramentary of the late 8th century. About two centuries later, Ælfric of Eynsham, an Anglo-Saxon abbot, wrote of the rite of strewing ashes on heads at the start of Lent.
The article on Ash Wednesday in the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica states that, after the Protestant Reformation, the ashes ceremony was not forbidden in the Church of England, a statement that may explain the research by Blair Meeks that the Anglican tradition "never lapsed in this observance". It was even prescribed under King Henry VIII in 1538 and under King Edward VI in 1550, but it fell out of use in many areas after 1600. In 1536, the Ten Articles issued by authority of Henry VIII commended "the observance of various rites and ceremonies as good and laudable, such as clerical vestments, sprinkling of holy water, bearing of candles on Candlemas-day, giving of ashes on Ash-Wednesday". After Henry's death in January 1547, Thomas Cranmer, within the same year, "procured an order from the Council to forbid the carrying of candles on Candlemas-day, and the use of ashes on Ash-Wednesday, and of palms on Palm-Sunday, as superstitious ceremonies", an order that was issued only for the ecclesiastical province of Canterbury, of which Cranmer was archbishop. The Church Cyclopædia states that the "English office had adapted the very old Salisbury service for Ash-Wednesday, prefacing it with an address and a recital of the curses of Mount Ebal, and then with an exhortation uses the older service very nearly as it stood." The new Commination Office had no blessing of ashes and therefore, in England as a whole, "soon after the Reformation, the use of ashes was discontinued as a 'vain show' and Ash Wednesday then became only a day of marked solemnity, with a memorial of its original character in a reading of the curses denounced against impenitent sinners". The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, in the 19th century, observed Ash Wednesday: "as a day of fasting and humiliation, wherein we are publicly to confess our sins, meekly to implore God's mercy and forgiveness, and humbly to intercede for the continuance of his favour". In the 20th century, the Book of Common Prayer provided prayers for the imposition of ashes.
Monte Canfield and Blair Meeks state that after the Protestant Reformation, Anglicans and Lutherans kept the rite of blessing and distributing ashes to the faithful on Ash Wednesday, and that the Protestant denominations that did not keep it encouraged its use "during and after the ecumenical era that resulted in the Vatican II proclamations". Jack Kingsbury and Russell F. Anderson likewise state that the practice was continued among some Anglicans and Lutherans. On the other hand, Edward Traill Horn wrote: "The ceremony of the distribution of the ashes was not retained by the reformers, whether Lutheran, Anglican or Reformed", although these denominations honored Ash Wednesday as the first day of Lent. Frank Senn, a liturgical scholar, has been quoted as saying: "How and why the use of ashes fell out of Lutheran use is difficult to discern from the sources… [C]hurch orders don't specifically say not to use ashes; they simply stopped giving direction for blessing and distributing them and eventually the pastors just stopped doing it."
As part of the liturgical revival ushered in by the ecumenical movement, the practice was encouraged in Protestant churches, including the Methodist Church. It has also been adopted by Anabaptist and Reformed churches and some less liturgical denominations.
The Eastern Orthodox churches generally do not observe Ash Wednesday, although in recent times, the creation of the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate has led to the observance of Ash Wednesday among Western Orthodox parishes. In this tradition, ashes "may be distributed outside of the mass or any liturgical service" although "commonly the faithful receive their ashes immediately before the Ash Wednesday mass". In Orthodoxy, historically, "serious public sinners in the East also donned sackcloth, including those who made the Great Fast a major theme of their entire lives such as hermits and desert-dwellers." Byzantine Rite Catholics, although in the United States use "the same Gregorian calendar as the Roman Catholic rite", do not practice the distribution of ashes as it is "not part of their ancient tradition".
In the Ambrosian Rite, ashes are blessed and placed on the heads of the faithful not on the day that elsewhere is called Ash Wednesday, but at the end of Mass on the following Sunday, which in that rite inaugurates Lent, with the fast traditionally beginning on Monday, the first weekday of the Ambrosian Lent.
Ash Wednesday marks the start of a 40-day period which is an allusion to the separation of Jesus in the desert to fast and pray. During this time he was tempted. Matthew 4:1–11, Mark 1:12–13, and Luke 4:1–13. While not specifically instituted in the Bible text, the 40-day period of fast and pray is also analogous to the 40 days during which Moses repented and fasted in response to the making of the Golden calf.(Exo. 34:27–28) (Jews today follow a 40-day period of repenting in preparation for and during the High Holy Days from Rosh Chodesh Elul to Yom Kippur.)
Ash Wednesday is exactly 46 days before Easter Sunday, a moveable feast based on the cycles of the moon. The earliest date Ash Wednesday can occur is 4 February (which is only possible during a common year with Easter on 22 March), which happened in 1598, 1693, 1761 and 1818 and will next occur in 2285. The latest date Ash Wednesday can occur is 10 March (when Easter Day falls on 25 April) which occurred in 1666, 1734, 1886 and 1943 and will next occur in 2038. Ash Wednesday has never occurred on Leap Year Day (29 February), and it will not occur as such until 2096. The only other years of the third millennium that will have Ash Wednesday on 29 February are 2468, 2688, 2840 and 2992. (Ash Wednesday falls on 29 February only if Easter is on 15 April in a leap year starting on a Sunday.)
Ash Wednesday is observed by Western Christianity. Most Latin Rite Roman Catholics observe it,[note 1] along with certain Protestants like Lutherans, Anglicans, some Reformed churches, Baptists, Nazarenes, Methodists, Evangelicals, and Mennonites. The Moravian Church Wesleyan Church and Metropolitan Community Churches observe Ash Wednesday. Some Independent Catholics, Ecclesia Gnostica and the Community of Christ also observe it.
The Eastern Orthodox Church does not, in general, observe Ash Wednesday; instead, Orthodox Great Lent begins on Clean Monday. There are, however, a relatively small number of Orthodox Christians who follow the Western Rite; these do observe Ash Wednesday, although often on a different day from the previously mentioned denominations, as its date is determined from the Orthodox calculation of Pascha, which may be as much as a month later than the Western observance of Easter.
In the Republic of Ireland, Ash Wednesday is National No Smoking Day. The date was chosen because quitting smoking ties in with giving up luxury for Lent. In the United Kingdom, No Smoking Day was held for the first time on Ash Wednesday in 1984 but is now fixed as the second Wednesday in March.
The Council of Nicea (325) mentions for the first time Lent as a period of 40 days of fasting in preparation for Easter.
Catherine Bell outlines the details of fasting and abstinence in a historical context, stating that the Advent fast was usually less severe than that carried out in Lent, which originally involved just one meal a day, not to be eaten until after sunset.
St. Benedict's rule prescribed a great many fasts, over and above the ecclesiastical fast of Lent; but it made this great distinction between the two: that whilst Lent obliged the monks, as well as the rest of the faithful, to abstain from food till sunset, these monastic fasts allowed the repast to be taken at the hour of None.
Il rito di Imposizione delle ceneri andrebbe celebrato il Lunedì della prima settimana di Quaresima, ma da sempre viene celebrato al termine delle Messe della prima domenica di Quaresima. ... I venerdì di Quaresima sono di magro, ed il venerdì che segue la I Domenica di Quaresima è anche di digiuno.
Special religious services are held on Ash Wednesday by the Church of England, and in the United States by Episcopal, Lutheran, and some other Protestant churches. The Episcopal Church prescribes no rules concerning fasting on Ash Wednesday, which is carried out according to members' personal wishes; however, it recommends a measure of fasting and abstinence as a suitable means of marking the day with proper devotion. Among Lutherans as well, there are no set rules for fasting, although some local congregations may advocate this form of penitence in varying degrees.
In many Lutheran churches, the Sundays during the Lenten season are called by the first word of their respective Latin Introitus (with the exception of Palm/Passion Sunday): Invocavit, Reminiscere, Oculi, Laetare, and Judica. Many Lutheran church orders of the 16th century retained the observation of the Lenten fast, and Lutherans have observed this season with a serene, earnest attitude. Special days of eucharistic communion were set aside on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.
The Good Friday fast became the principal fast in the calendar, and even after the Reformation in Germany many Lutherans who observed no other fast scrupulously kept Good Friday with strict fasting.
By many Lutherans Good Friday is observed as a strict fast. The lessons on Ash Wednesday emphasize the proper idea of the fast. The Sundays in Lent receive their names from the first words of their Introits in the Latin service, Invocavit, Reminiscere, Oculi, Lcetare, Judica.
The Lenten fast was retained at the Reformation in some of the reformed Churches, and is still observed in the Anglican and Lutheran communions.
It is traditional to save the palm branches from the previous Palm Sunday service to burn to produce ashes for this service.
Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, the period of forty days before Easter. It is so called because of the Church's tradition of making the sign of the cross on people's foreheads, as a sign of penitence and of Christian witness. The ash is made by burning palm crosses from the previous year and is usually mixed with a little holy water or oil.
There is no rule about this. It is a matter of personal decision based on the individual's own inclinations and circumstances.
Many Christians choose to leave the ashes on their forehead for the remainder of the day, not to be showy and boastful (see Matthew 6:16–18). Rather, they do it as a witness that all people are sinners in need of repentance AND that through Jesus all sins are forgiven through faith.
Catholics should try not to rub their ashes off after Ash Wednesday Mass, an English bishop has said. Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton, who heads the department of evangelization and catechesis, urged Catholics across Britain to wear "the outward sign of our inward sorrow for our sins and for our commitment to Jesus as Our Lord and Savior". He said: "The wearing of the ashes provides us with a wonderful opportunity to share with people how important our faith is to us and to point them to the cross of Christ. I invite you where possible to attend a morning or lunchtime Mass.
I strongly believe that wearing ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday is the best way to 1) assert our religious freedom as citizens and 2) remember that our call as Christians is to be witnesses first and foremost.
On Wednesday St Mary's Catholic church and Sunderland Minster, an Anglican church, will be working together to offer "Ashes to Go" – a new approach to a centuries-old Christian tradition.
Dubbed Ashes to Go, it's a contemporary spin on the Ash Wednesday practice followed chiefly in Episcopal, Anglican, Catholic and Lutheran denominations.
Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, and members of St. Paul's Parish in Washington, D.C., imposed ashes on commuters and other passers-by on Ash Wednesday (5 March) near the Foggy Bottom Metro station in the nation's capital.
Anyone can accept the ashes although, Mellott says, non-Christians tend not to seek them. Still, she says, "if anyone does, we view it as an act of evangelism, and we make it clear this is a part of the Christian tradition."
Ministers participating in Ashes to Go include the Rev. Dan Lewis from First Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Joan Kilian from Trinity Episcopal Church, the Rev. Bill Bagwell and the Rev. Jonathan Smith from Pittman Park United Methodist Church, the Rev. Douglas Clark of St. Matthew's Roman Catholic Church, and the Rev. James Byrd, from St. Andrew's Chapel Church.
Some Catholics who couldn't make it to church this morning got their "Ashes on the Go." Father Tony Prandini with Good Shepherd Catholic Parish was conducting Ash Wednesday rituals – marking foreheads – outside of the State Capitol.
Commuters can drive in the gate of St Patrick's Church, in Glenmady, receive ashes from their car and drive out the other side. 'We looked at the situation on the ground. People and families are on the move all the time,' parish priest Father Paddy Mooney told the Irish Catholic. 'It's about meeting people where they are.' The same church will also offer drive-through prayers during Lent with people submitting requests into a box left in the church grounds without having to leave their car.
In 2012, that initiative, "Ashes to Go," caught on nationally, and a year later the idea went international, with churches in the United Kingdom, Canada and South Africa also practicing the easy penitence method.
The service for Ash Wednesday has traditionally included Psalm 51, prayers of confession and the sign of ashes, often in the shape of a cross.
The Commination. This service was composed in 1549. In the ancient services there was nothing that corresponded at all nearly to the first part of this service, except the sentences of the greater excommunication, which were commonly read in parish churches three or four times a year. Some of the reformers were very anxious to restore the primitive practice of public penance in church, which was indeed occasionally practiced, at least until the latter part of the eighteenth century, and they put forward this service as a sort of substitute. The Miserere and most of what follows was taken from the Sarum services for Ash Wednesday.
In recent years Christians from the Reformed branch of the Protestant tradition have begun to recover a practice that dates in the Western church at least to the tenth century. That is to begin Lent on the Wednesday before the First Sunday in Lent with a service of repentance and commitment, including the imposition of ashes. The Lutheran and Anglican traditions, of course, never lapsed in this observance, and the liturgical reforms of Vatican II have made Roman Catholic prayers and rubrics more accessible to other traditions through ecumenical dialogues.
After the Reformation most Protestant church denominations, while recognizing Ash Wednesday as a holy day, did not engage in the imposition of ashes. Many Anglican, Episcopal and some Lutheran churches did continue the rite but it was mostly reserved for use in the Roman Catholic Church. During and after the ecumenical era that resulted in the Vatican II proclamations, many of the Protestant denominations encouraged a liturgical revival in their churches and the Ash Wednesday imposition of ashes was encouraged.
The imposition of ashes symbolizes the penitential nature of the season of Lent. While this custom is still observed in the Roman Catholic church, and in some Lutheran and Anglican parishes, it has not been retained in Reformed churches.
Ashes are a traditional symbol of penitence and remorse. The practice of imposing ashes on the first day of Lent continues to this day in the church of Rome as well as in many Lutheran and Episcopalian quarters.
This is the day Lent begins. Christians go to church to pray and have a cross drawn in ashes on their foreheads. The ashes draw on an ancient tradition and represent repentance before God. The holiday is part of Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, and Episcopalian liturgies, among others.
la Quaresima inizia la domenica successiva al "mercoledì delle ceneri" con l'imposizione delle ceneri al termine della Messa festiva. ... Una delle pecularità di questo rito, con profili non-soltanto strettamente religiosi, è l'inizio della Quaresima, che non-parte dal Mercoledì delle Ceneri, ma dalla domenica immediatamente successiva.
The Ambrosian Rite still to this day has no Ash Wednesday; it is therefore Quinquagesima that forms the prelude to Lent, properly so-called, which the Roman Rite has in Ash Wednesday and the ferias "post Cineres".
Turning to the gospel of the day, which is about Jesus' 40 days in the desert, "where he overcame the temptations of Satan" (cfr Mk 1:12–13), Pope Benedict XVI exhorted Christians to follow "their Teacher and Lord to face together with Him 'the struggle against the spirit of evil'." He said: "The desert is rather an eloquent metaphor of the human condition."
Although some denominations do not practice the application of ashes to the forehead as a mark of public commitment on Ash Wednesday, those that do include Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and some Baptist followers.
The first Ash Wednesday fires were a series of bushfires that began in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia, on Ash Wednesday, 20 February 1980. 51 homes and 25 other buildings were destroyed, and 75 farms were affected. 40 people were injured, with 150 left homeless. The fire burnt an area of 3,770 ha (14.6 sq mi), and caused an estimated $34,000,000 damage.In 1983, after the Ash Wednesday fires in February that year, the 1980 fire became known in South Australia as the "first" Ash Wednesday, or Ash Wednesday I.Ash Wednesday (1958 film)
Ash Wednesday (Spanish: Miércoles de ceniza) is a 1958 Mexican drama film directed by Roberto Gavaldón. It was entered into the 8th Berlin International Film Festival.Ash Wednesday (1973 film)
Ash Wednesday is a 1973 American drama film starring Elizabeth Taylor, directed by Larry Peerce and produced by Dominick Dunne. The screenplay by Jean-Claude Tramont focuses on the effect that extensive cosmetic surgery has on the life of a middle-aged married woman.Ash Wednesday (2002 film)
Ash Wednesday is a 2002 crime drama film starring Edward Burns, Elijah Wood, and Rosario Dawson. The film is set in the Hell's Kitchen of the early 1980s and is about a pair of Irish-American brothers who become embroiled in a conflict with the Irish mob.Ash Wednesday (musician)
Ash Wednesday is an Australian musician, who played in JAB, the Models and Einstürzende Neubauten.Ash Wednesday (poem)
Ash Wednesday (sometimes Ash-Wednesday) is the first long poem written by T. S. Eliot after his 1927 conversion to Anglicanism. Published in 1930, this poem deals with the struggle that ensues when one who has lacked faith in the past strives to move towards God.
Sometimes referred to as Eliot's "conversion poem", Ash-Wednesday, with a base of Dante's Purgatorio, is richly but ambiguously allusive and deals with the move from spiritual barrenness to hope for human salvation. The style is different from his poetry which predates his conversion. "Ash-Wednesday" and the poems that followed had a more casual, melodic, and contemplative method.Many critics were "particularly enthusiastic concerning 'Ash-Wednesday'", while in other quarters it was not well received. Among many of the more secular literati its groundwork of orthodox Christianity was discomfiting. Edwin Muir maintained that "'Ash-Wednesday' is one of the most moving poems he [Eliot] has written, and perhaps the most perfect."Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962
The Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962 occurred on March 5–9, 1962 along the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States. Also known as the Great March Storm of 1962, it was considered by the U.S. Geological Survey to be one of the most destructive storms ever to affect the mid-Atlantic states. Classified as a level 5 or Extreme Nor'easter by the Dolan-Davis scale for classification of Atlantic Nor'easters it was one of the ten worst storms in the United States in the 20th century. It lingered through five high tides over a three-day period, killing 40 people, injuring over 1,000, and causing hundreds of millions in property damage in six states. The storm also deposited significant snowfall over the Southeast, with a regional snowfall index of 12.663.Ash Wednesday bushfires
The Ash Wednesday bushfires, known in South Australia as Ash Wednesday II, were a series of bushfires that occurred in south-eastern Australia on 16 February 1983, which was Ash Wednesday in the Christian calendar. Within twelve hours, more than 180 fires fanned by winds of up to 110 km/h (68 mph) caused widespread destruction across the states of Victoria and South Australia. Years of severe drought and extreme weather combined to create one of Australia's worst fire days in a century. The fires became the deadliest bushfire in Australian history until the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009.
In Victoria 47 people died. There were 28 deaths in South Australia. This included 14 CFA and 3 CFS volunteer fire-fighters who died across both states that day. Many fatalities were as a result of firestorm conditions caused by a sudden and violent wind change in the evening which rapidly changed the direction and size of the fire front. The speed and ferocity of the flames, aided by abundant fuels and a landscape immersed in smoke, made fire suppression and containment impossible. In many cases, residents fended for themselves as fires broke communications, cut off escape routes and severed electricity and water supplies. Up to 8,000 people were evacuated in Victoria at the height of the crisis and a state of disaster was declared for the first time in South Australia's history. More than 35 townhouses were burned in a small town in Victoria.
Ash Wednesday was one of Australia's costliest natural disasters. More than 3,700 buildings were destroyed or damaged and 2,545 individuals and families lost their homes. Livestock losses were very high, with more than 340,000 sheep, 18,000 cattle and numerous native animals either dead or later destroyed. A total of 4,540 insurance claims were paid totalling A$176 million with a total estimated cost of well over $400 million (1983 values) for both states or $1.3 billion in adjusted terms (2007).The emergency saw the largest number of volunteers called to duty from across Australia at the same time—an estimated 130,000 firefighters, defence force personnel, relief workers and support crews.Carnival
Carnival (see other spellings and names) is a Western Christian and Greek Orthodox festive season that occurs before the liturgical season of Lent. The main events typically occur during February or early March, during the period historically known as Shrovetide (or Pre-Lent). Carnival typically involves public celebrations, including events such as parades, public street parties and other entertainments, combining some elements of a circus. Elaborate costumes and masks allow people to set aside their everyday individuality and experience a heightened sense of social unity. Participants often indulge in excessive consumption of alcohol, meat, and other foods that will be forgone during upcoming Lent. Traditionally, butter, milk, and other animal products were not consumed "excessively", rather, their stock was fully consumed as to reduce waste. Pancakes, donuts, and other desserts were prepared and eaten for a final time. During Lent, animal products are no longer eaten, and individuals have the ability to give up a certain object or activity of desire.
Other common features of carnival include mock battles such as food fights; expressions of social satire; mockery of authorities; costumes of the grotesque body that display exaggerated features such as large noses, bellies, mouths, phalli, or elements of animal bodies; abusive language and degrading acts; depictions of disease and gleeful death; and a general reversal of everyday rules and norms.The term Carnival is traditionally used in areas with a large Catholic presence, as well as in Greece. In historically Evangelical Lutheran countries, the celebration is known as Fastelavn, and in areas with a high concentration of Anglicans (Church of England/US Episcopal Church), Methodists, and other Protestants, pre-Lenten celebrations, along with penitential observances, occur on Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras. In Slavic Eastern Orthodox nations, Maslenitsa is celebrated during the last week before Great Lent. In German-speaking Europe and the Netherlands, the Carnival season traditionally opens on 11/11 (often at 11:11 am). This dates back to celebrations before the Advent season or with harvest celebrations of St. Martin's Day.Carnival of Binche
The carnival of Binche is an event that takes place each year in the Belgian town of Binche during the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday. The carnival is the best known of several that take place in Wallonia, Belgium at the same time and has been proclaimed as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity listed by UNESCO. Its history dates back to approximately the 14th century.Events related to the carnival begin up to seven weeks prior to the primary celebrations. Street performances and public displays traditionally occur on the Sundays approaching Ash Wednesday, consisting of prescribed musical acts, dancing, and marching. Large numbers of Binche's inhabitants spend the Sunday directly prior to Ash Wednesday in costume.The centrepiece of the carnival's proceedings are clown-like performers known as Gilles. Appearing, for the most part, on Shrove Tuesday, the Gilles are characterised by their vibrant dress, wax masks and wooden footwear. They number up to 1,000 at any given time, range in age from 3 to 60 years old, and are customarily male. The honour of being a Gille at the carnival is something that is aspired to by local men. From dawn on the morning of the carnival's final day, Gilles appear in the centre of Binche, to dance to the sound of drums and ward off evil spirits with sticks. Later during the day, they don large hats adorned with ostrich plumes, which can cost more than $300 US dollars to rent, and march through the town with baskets of oranges. These oranges are thrown to, and sometimes at, members of the crowd gathered to view the procession. The vigour and longevity of the orange-throwing event has in past caused damage to property – some residents choose to seal windows to prevent this. The oranges are considered good luck because they are a gift from the Gilles and it is an insult to throw them back.Friday Fast
The Friday Fast is a Christian practice of abstaining from animal meat on Fridays, or holding a fast on Fridays, that is found most frequently in the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican and Methodist traditions. According to Pope Peter of Alexandria, the Friday fast is done in commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. Abstinence is colloquially referred to as "fasting" although it does not necessarily involve a reduction in the quantity of food.
In Roman Catholicism, specific regulations are passed by individual episcopates. In the United States in 1966, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops passed Norms II and IV that bound all persons from age fourteen to abstain from meat on Fridays of Lent and through the year. In September 1983, Canons 1252 and 1253 expressed this same rule, and added that Bishops may permit substitution of other penitential practices, but that some form of penance shall be observed on Friday in commemoration of the day of the week of the Lord's Crucifixion.Most episcopal conferences have not allowed to substitute a different penance for Fridays of Lent, though e. g. the German one has; no episcopal conference has lifted either fasting or abstinence for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Abstinence on all Fridays is still the preferred practice among many Catholics.Lent
Lent (Latin: Quadragesima, 'Fortieth') is a solemn religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, before Easter Sunday. The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer, doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and denial of ego. This event is observed in the Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Moravian, Oriental Orthodox, Reformed, and Roman Catholic Churches. Some Anabaptist and evangelical churches also observe the Lenten season.The last week of Lent is Holy Week, starting with Palm Sunday. Following the New Testament story, Jesus' crucifixion is commemorated on Good Friday, and at the beginning of the next week the joyful celebration of Easter Sunday recalls the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In Lent, many Christians commit to fasting, as well as giving up certain luxuries in order to replicate the account of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ's journey into the desert for 40 days; this is known as one's Lenten sacrifice. Many Christians also add a Lenten spiritual discipline, such as reading a daily devotional or praying through a Lenten calendar, to draw themselves near to God. The Stations of the Cross, a devotional commemoration of Christ's carrying the Cross and of his execution, are often observed. Many Roman Catholic and some Protestant churches remove flowers from their altars, while crucifixes, religious statues, and other elaborate religious symbols are often veiled in violet fabrics in solemn observance of the event. Throughout Christendom, some adherents mark the season with the traditional abstention from the consumption of meat, most notably among Lutherans, Roman Catholics and Anglicans.Lent is traditionally described as lasting for 40 days, in commemoration of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, before beginning his public ministry, during which he endured temptation by Satan. Depending on the Christian denomination and local custom, Lent ends either on the evening of Maundy Thursday, or at sundown on Holy Saturday, when the Easter Vigil is celebrated. Regardless, Lenten practices are properly maintained until the evening of Holy Saturday.List of Caribbean carnivals around the world
Caribbean Carnival is the term used in the English speaking world for a series of events throughout almost the whole year that take place in many of the Caribbean islands annually and worldwide.The Caribbean's carnivals have several common themes, all originating from Trinidad and Tobago Carnival also known as the Mother of Carnival , whose popularity and appeal began well before 1846, and gained global recognition in 1881 with the Canboulay Riots in Port Of Spain. #Trinidad Carnival is based on folklore, culture, religion, and tradition (thus relating to the European use of the word, not amusement rides, as the word "carnival" is often used to mean in American English. Carnival tradition is based on a number of disciplines including: Parade of the Bands /Carnival parade /"Playing Mas"/masquerade; calypso music; soca music and crowning a Calypso monarch aka Calypso King; Soca monarch aka Soca King; Panorama (steelpan/steelband competition);Old mas aka Traditional mas competition; J'ouvert celebrations inclusive of jab molassie / jab jab, Moko Jumbie Dame Lorraine Blue Devil; and a number of other Trinidad Carnival / Trinidadian traditions.Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras (), or Fat Tuesday, refers to events of the Carnival celebration, beginning on or after the Christian feasts of the Epiphany (Three Kings Day) and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday (known as Shrove Tuesday). Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday", reflecting the practice of the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season.
Related popular practices are associated with Shrovetide celebrations before the fasting and religious obligations associated with the penitential season of Lent. In countries such as the United Kingdom, Mardi Gras is also known as Shrove Tuesday, which is derived from the word shrive, meaning "to administer the sacrament of confession to; to absolve".Public holidays in Panama
Panama's national public holidays are:
January 1, New Year's Day
January 9, Martyrs' Day
Carnival's Monday. The Monday before Ash Wednesday.
Carnival's Tuesday. The Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.
Holy Friday - Good Friday - Death of Christ
May 1, May Day - Labor Day
July 1. (every 5 years) presidential inauguration
November 3. Separation Day (from Colombia).
November 4. Flag Day
November 5. Colón Day
November 10. "Primer Grito de Independencia de la Villa de los Santos" celebrating The Gesture of Rufina Alfaro and the uprising in the Villa de los Santos against Spain.
November 28. Independence Day (from Spain).
December 8. Mothers' Day.
December 25. Christmas.The holidays in November (starting from Separation Day), are called the Fiestas Patrias ("National Holidays").Public holidays in Switzerland
The 26 cantons that make up Switzerland set their public holidays independently – with the exception of 1 August, which is the only federal holiday. Furthermore, holidays can change depending on employers, and some holidays are specific to only a certain town or village. In general, the most reliable list of holidays for a given area will be to look for the list of bank holidays, as nearly all shops and offices close during bank holidays.Septuagesima
Septuagesima (; in full, Septuagesima Sunday) is the name for the ninth Sunday before Easter, the third before Ash Wednesday. The term is sometimes applied to the seventy days starting on Septuagesima Sunday and ending on the Saturday after Easter. Alternatively, the term is sometimes applied also to the period commonly called Shrovetide or Gesimatide (the Pre-Lenten Season) that begins on this day and ends on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins.
The other two Sundays in this period of the liturgical year are called Sexagesima and Quinquagesima, the latter sometimes also called Shrove Sunday. The earliest date on which Septuagesima Sunday can occur is January 18 (Easter falling on March 22 in a non-leap year) and the latest is February 22 (Easter falling on April 25 in a leap year).Shrove Monday
Shrove Monday, sometimes known as Collopy Monday, Rose Monday, Merry Monday or Hall Monday, is a Christian observance falling on the Monday before Ash Wednesday every year. A part of the English traditional Shrovetide celebrations of the week before Lent, the Monday precedes Shrove Tuesday. As the Monday before Ash Wednesday, it is part of diverse Carnival celebrations which take place in many parts of the Christian world, from Greece, to Germany, to the Mardi Gras and Carnival of the Americas.Shrove Tuesday
Shrove Tuesday (also known in Commonwealth countries and Ireland as Pancake Tuesday or Pancake Day) is the day in February or March immediately preceding Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent), which is celebrated in some countries by consuming pancakes. In others, especially those where it is called Mardi Gras or some translation thereof, this is a carnival day, and also the last day of "fat eating" or "gorging" before the fasting period of Lent.
This moveable feast is determined by Easter. The expression "Shrove Tuesday" comes from the word shrive, meaning "absolve". Shrove Tuesday is observed by many Christians, including Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and Roman Catholics, who "make a special point of self-examination, of considering what wrongs they need to repent, and what amendments of life or areas of spiritual growth they especially need to ask God's help in dealing with."As this is the last day of the liturgical season historically known as Shrovetide, before the penitential season of Lent, related popular practices, such as indulging in food that one gives up for the upcoming forty days, are associated with Shrove Tuesday celebrations. The term Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday", referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday.
|Ordinary Time I|
|Ordinary Time II|
American Heart Month
Black History Month
Irish-American Heritage Month
National Colon Cancer Awareness Month
Women's History Month
Confederate History Month
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
Jewish American Heritage Month
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and
Transgender Pride Month
Prostate Cancer Awareness Month
Hispanic Heritage Month
Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Disability Employment Awareness Month
Filipino American History Month
LGBT History Month
Native American Indian Heritage Month
|Varies (year round)|
(federal) = federal holidays, (state) = state holidays, (religious) = religious holidays, (week) = weeklong holidays, (month) = monthlong holidays, (36) = Title 36 Observances and Ceremonies