Ash Wednesday

Category: Religious
Ash Wednesday around the world in 2024

About Ash Wednesday

How long until Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday .
Dates of Ash Wednesday
2025 InternationalMar 5
International Wed, Mar 5Observances Holiday
2024 InternationalFeb 14
International Wed, Feb 14Observances Holiday
2023 InternationalFeb 22
International Wed, Feb 22Observances Holiday
2022 InternationalMar 2
International Wed, Mar 2Observances Holiday
2021 InternationalFeb 17
International Wed, Feb 17Observances Holiday
Marks the beginning of lent. Marking the forehead with ash represents regret for past sins.

When is Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent in the Western church and takes place 46 days before Easter. As the date of Easter is calculated on the cycles of the moon, the date of Ash Wednesday will vary from year to year. The earliest possible date for Ash Wednesday is 4 February and the latest day is March 10.

Ash Wednesday is observed mainly by the Roman Catholic Church and also by some Protestant denominations such as Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Lutherans.

It takes places immediately after the excesses of the two days of Carnival that take place in Northern Europe and parts of Latin America and the Caribbean.

What is Ash Wednesday?

The name of the day comes from the custom that churchgoers are marked on the forehead with a cross of ash to symbolise death and regret for past sins. The priest will accompany the marking with a recital of Genesis 3:19 - "Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return". The tradition of marking with ashes began in the early church as a way for persistent sinners to outwardly show their desire for repentance. By the end of the 10th century, the custom had spread to all the faithful.

Traditionally the ashes are created from burning the palms used in the church on Palm Sunday the previous year. Palm Sunday marked the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem after his 40 days and nights in the desert.

During the 40 days before Easter, Roman Catholics are supposed to abstain from all bodily pleasures, including the consumption of meat. This is intended to remember the fasting of Jesus, who spent 40 days in the desert before beginning his ministry. In the Catholic Church, Lent gets off to an appropriate start with Ash Wednesday as it is a day of fasting, abstinence from meat and repentance.

Did you know?

In Ireland, National No Smoking Day takes place on Ash Wednesday as the start of Lent is seen as an opportune time to encourage people to give up a luxury such as smoking.

Lent is longer than the 40 days as Sunday was seen as a special feast day to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday, so it is excluded from the calculation of Lent. Lent is the Monday to Saturday in the six weeks before Easter Sunday (6 days x 6 weeks = 36 days) and adding the Wednesday to Saturday in the week before brings us to the 40 days.

The Orthodox Christian church has no tradition of ashes and Holy Week (the week before Easter) is excluded from the calculation of Lent, though Sundays are included. This all means that Lent begins instead on Orthodox Shrove Monday. Also known as Clean Monday, this is two days before Ash Wednesday.

  • Did you know? The McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish is a by-product of Catholic fasting. It was developed in 1962 by Lou Groen who ran the Cincinnati franchise and couldn’t sell burgers on Fridays or during Lent to his mostly Catholic customers.
  • Did you know? The pretzel was originally a Lenten snack, the dough made from plain flour and water and shaped liked two arms crossed in prayer (the name ultimately derives from the Latin ‘bracellae’ – little arms).

Similar Observances

Read more about All Saints' Day

All Saints' Day

Pope Boniface IV dedicated the day as a holiday to honour the Blessed Virgin Mary and all martyrs

Read More
Read more about All Souls' Day

All Souls' Day

Dedicated to the remembrance of the departed. All Souls' Day follows All Saints' Day.

Read More
Read more about St. Martin's Day

St. Martin's Day

Traditionally, in many parts of Europe, St Martin's Day marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter.

Read More
Read more about Diwali

Diwali 🪔

Celebrations revolve around the triumph of good over evil, purity over impurity, light over darkness.

Read More

Other Observances on February 14th 2024

Read more about Valentines Day

Valentines Day 💝

❤️ Across many parts of the world on February 14th, flowers, cards and gifts will be exchanged between loved ones, as St. Valentine's day is celebrated.

Read More
Read more about Library Lovers Day

Library Lovers Day

Find out the dates, history and traditions of Library Lovers Day.

Read More
Read more about National Cream-Filled Chocolates Day

National Cream-Filled Chocolates Day

We are rather fondant of National Cream-Filled Chocolates Day.

Read More
Read more about National Ferris Wheel Day

National Ferris Wheel Day

Find out the dates, history and traditions of National Ferris Wheel Day

Read More
All events on February 14th 2024