Each year, individuals of all ages and genders will celebrate and honor a day of religious significance known as Ash Wednesday, or the Day of Ashes. For many, the observance of Ash Wednesday, also known as the Day of Ashes, leads to attendance in religious sanctuaries with the administration of ashes to the forehead. Understanding the religious basis for Ash Wednesday, and the anointing of ashes to the forehead, will provide for a more spiritual awakening experience on this annual holiday religious holiday.
In Christian view, Good Friday marks the day on which Christ was crucified and then, subsequently, rose from the dead on Easter; three days later. Traditionally, 43 days before Good Friday, mark the celebration of the beginning of Lent, a time of fasting and sacrifice, with the beginning of the Lent period marked by observance of Ash Wednesday. In other words, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, which is the 43 day period of sacrifice and fasting leading up to Good Friday, the day of crucifixion, and then the three day period, thereafter, arriving at Easter Sunday. What is important to note is the period from Ash Wednesday to Easter is actually 46 days. Lent, however, is considered to span 40 days. The difference between the two figures lies in the Sundays during the Lent period in which repentance and mourning is not traditional. By removing Sundays from the Lent period, Christians are provided with a true 40 day Lent period.
As in many religious sects, a symbol of ownership is common. In marriage, society marks the symbol of commitment through the wearing of wedding bands. In many Middle Eastern cultures, symbols of marriage, or commitment, are marked through the placing of a round, colored circle on the forehead. For Christians, the temporary marking on the forehead marks the commitment to Jesus Christ, God and an ownership of the same. Thus, Christians, on Ash Wednesday (Day of Ashes), will mark this day, through observance, and an exhibition of commitment through ashes on the forehead. So, why are ashes used instead of another temporary substance?
For Christians, it is believed ashes mark a symbol of mourning and a sign of repentance. For this reason, on the Day of Ashes, or Ash Wednesday, Christians will use the temporary marking of the forehead in the substance commonly used in biblical times; ashes. Once the ashes are blessed by the church leader, and placed on the forehead, many Christians believe this marks the physical and spiritual beginning of a personal Lent season in which 40 days of repentance will begin leading up to the celebration of Easter Sunday.
Regardless of the religious affiliation, Christians around the World will celebrate the Day of Ashes, Lent and the observance of Easter. Understanding the symbolism of the markings of the forehead, and the meaning behind the substances used, will provide Christians with a more clear understanding of the importance of this Spring holiday season.