what Ash Wednesday means

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Do you find yourself wondering what Ash Wednesday means? Perhaps you even believe you are required to attend church services on Ash Wednesday. You may have friends who get *dirt* on their heads each spring when Lent begins.

Did you celebrate Mardi Gras or what is also known as Shrove Tuesday?

Let’s take a factual look at what Ash Wednesday means, and the Season of Lent – the time before Easter.

A look at what Ash Wednesday means

Ash Wednesday itself is 46 days before Easter. It is always on a Wednesday and is primarily observed by Catholics, however other Christian denominations may recognize the day as well. Lent is said to be “40” days because Sundays don’t count. (There are 6 Sundays, not counting Easter Sunday in the Liturgical Season of Lent)  Sundays are always considered feast days in a Christian calendar so they do not count in the 40 days of Lent.

Ash Wednesday is rooted in the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting. Penance is a form of voluntary self-punishment inflicted as an outward expression of repentance for having done wrong. ) Fasting is abstaining from all or some kinds of food or drinks, especially as a religious observance.

The ashes that are placed on the foreheads are a symbol of the dust from which God made us. They are made from blessed palm branches, from the previous year’s Palm Sunday Mass.  As the priest or extraordinary minister applies the ashes they say: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return.”  or “ Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

Ashes can also be a symbol of death and grief. In this way, our grief over the division from God we cause when we sin. They help develop a spirit of humility and sacrifice. (This is also where penance comes in.)

After receiving ashes you don’t have to wear them all day, however, many people do as they are a good opportunity to share about God and be reminded about the journey of lent that is beginning.

Penance During Lent

Many, during the time of Lent, for their offering of penance (the voluntary offering of self-punishment) “give something up” like coffee, sweets, soda, etc. It can also be a time for DOING something extra. Perhaps making an effort to pray every day or even a random act of kindness for 40 (46) days.

Happy Hive Homeschooling has several FREE resources you can use during Lent. The first is our Random Acts of Kindness Printables. You can use the pre-filled activities, or one of the “blanks” and write on your own. They also come with kindness cards you can leave around town for others to find. (NOTE: There are only 30 acts of Kindness)

 There is a LENT SPECIFIC activity that contains both Religious and secular activities called My Lenten Journey. Use this to count down the days before Easter. It has an area to record your Lenten sacrifice or record your acts of kindness.

abstinence during Lent

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday during Lent are days in which Catholics (and some other Christians) abstain (do not eat) from meat as well as fast. Fasting means eating only 1 main meal.

Also on Fridays during lent Catholics 14 years and older abstain from eating meat in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday.

Understanding what Lent and Ash Wednesday Means

The sacrifices may seem unreasonable to some, but given the importance of what is to come, it pales in comparison. Easter is the greatest holy day of the year for Christians, even greater than Christmas. It is only right to prepare through prayer, fasting, and abstinence.

Whatever you choose to do over the next 46 days, may your journey be blessed!

If you are looking for ways to celebrate the Easter Triduum, you can find them in THIS POST

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