The Meaning of Ash Wednesday: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you celebrate Ash Wednesday? This article will cover the meaning of Ash Wednesday and how people celebrate this Catholic holiday.

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You may be very familiar with the Ash Wednesday celebration if you are Catholic. However, if you are not familiar with Catholicism, you may wonder why people walk around with ashes on their foreheads on a Wednesday in the spring. 

This article will teach you all about the meaning and celebration of Ash Wednesday and the symbolic celebration that occurs in spring for Catholics and Christians.  

What Does Ash Wednesday Mean?

According to Britannica, Ash Wednesday is a Christian holiday that marks the first day of Lent. Ash Wednesday takes place 46 days before Easter and kicks off the 40 days of Lent. Mari Gras and Fat Tuesday precede Ash Wednesday.

Often, predominantly Catholics celebrate Ash Wednesday, but many other Protestant churches, United Methodists, Lutherans, Evangelicals, and other Christian churches may also participate in this Christian holy day.

People use Ash Wednesday to prepare for the Season of Lent, in which people choose something to give up for the 40 days until Easter. The Lenten season of reflection and penance—often accompanied by fasting—remind people of what Jesus Christ suffered through, giving those who celebrate newfound or reinvigorated respect for Christ. 

Ash Wednesday and Lent

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. During Lent, people typically choose one thing to give up for 40 days. This time of sacrifice can help people break bad habits, and it can also help religious people feel closer to Jesus Christ. One of the purposes of Lent is to help people understand the sacrifice that Jesus Christ went through. 

Take a look at the below list of common things to give up for Lent from Christianity Today. Which one of these do you plan to give up this year if you are Christian or Catholic?

  • Bread
  • Lying
  • Love
  • Chips
  • Plastic
  • McDonald’s
  • French fries
  • Sweets
  • Snapchat
  • Carbs
  • Work
  • Pork
  • Ice cream
  • Booze
  • Complaining
  • Starbucks
  • Negativity
  • Procrastination
  • Beer
  • TV
  • Chocolate
  • Cookies
  • School
  • Fast food
  • Netflix
  • Online shopping
  • Caffeine
  • Shopping
  • Candy
  • Takeout
  • Hot Cheetos
  • Red meat
  • Food
  • Men
  • Smoking
  • Junk food
  • Sugar
  • Instagram
  • Desserts
  • Makeup
  • Dating
  • Swearing
  • People
  • Juuling
  • Wine
  • Rice
  • Soda
  • Alcohol
  • Homework
  • Single-use plastic
  • Facebook
  • Cheese
  • Coke
  • Fried food
  • Chick Fil A
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Liquor
  • Meat
  • Marijuana
  • Boys
  • Dairy
  • Coffee
  • Twitter
  • Pasta
  • Boba
  • College
  • Eating out
  • Pizza
  • Cake

What is the Origin of Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday originated with the Roman Catholics, whose penitents practiced public penance on the first day of Lent. This public penance served as preparation for restoring the sacrament of the Eucharist. In this public absolution of sin, the penitents were dressed in sackcloth and sprinkled with ashes, separated until Maundy Thursday. These practices fell out of practice in the 10th century.

This holiday evolved into what we know as Ash Wednesday. On Palm Sunday, the leaders of the church burn the palms. Then, the church uses these ashes on Ash Wednesday. This celebration comes from the tradition of penance and fasting that ancient Jewish cultures observed.

How Do People Celebrate Ash Wednesday?

On Ash Wednesday, many people fast and practice abstinence. People are only allowed one full meal and no meat on Ash Wednesday. In addition, many people attend Catholic mass on Ash Wednesday. Here, a priest will put an ash cross on the mass goers’ foreheads. These ashes come from the palm branches of the previous Palm Sunday.

The ashes symbolize a reminder of our mortality, the dust from which God created man, and that life on Earth will pass for every one of us. These ashes are used to symbolize penance, humility, and sacrifice. They also represent God’s grace and mercy for repentant hearts. The ashes used during Ash Wednesday are blessed with Holy Water and scented by incense. 

What Are Other Catholic Holidays?

If you are Catholic, there are many religious holidays throughout the year. Calendar 12 provides an extensive list of Catholic holidays and their celebration date for the year 2022. How many of these holidays were you already familiar with, and how many are new to you? Do you celebrate any of these holidays?

  • Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God – 2022 Date: Saturday, January 1, 2022
  • Epiphany – 2022 Date: Thursday, January 6, 2022
  • Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras) – 2022 Date: Tuesday, March 1, 2022
  • Ash Wednesday – 2022 Date: Wednesday, March 2, 2022
  • Palm Sunday – 2022 Date: Sunday, April 10, 2022
  • Maundy Thursday – 2022 Date: Thursday, April 14, 2022
  • Good Friday – 2022 Date: Friday, April 15, 2022
  • Easter Sunday – 2022 Date: Sunday, April 17, 2022
  • Easter Monday – 2022 Date: Monday, April 18, 2022
  • Ascension of Jesus – 2022 Date: Thursday, May 26, 2022
  • Pentecost – 2022 Date: Sunday, June 5, 2022
  • Corpus Christi – 2022 Date: Thursday, June 16, 2022
  • Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – 2022 Date: Monday, August 15, 2022
  • All Saints’ Day – 2022 Date: Tuesday, November 1, 2022
  • The Immaculate Conception of The Blessed Virgin Mary – 2022 Date: Thursday, December 8, 2022
  • Christmas – 2022 Date: Sunday, December 25, 2022
  • Christmas (observed) – 2022 Date: Monday, December 26, 2022


What is Ash Wednesday? Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. People often celebrate this day of fasting by attending the Ash Wednesday service. In the Catholic Church, ashes from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are placed in the shape of a cross on attendees’ foreheads. 

Many denominations of Christianity practice Ash Wednesday and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus with the Easter celebration and the 40 days of Lent. Do you attend worship service on Ash Wednesday or Sunday mass on Easter?


  1. Ash Wednesday | Definition, History, Meaning, & Facts | Britannica
  2. 2022 Catholic Holidays | 
  3. What to Give Up for Lent 2018? Consider Twitter’s Top 100 Ideas | News & Reporting | Christianity Today