Ash Wednesday is a familiar holiday to most of the Christians worldwide. Though it is an observance, Ash Wednesday is not a public holiday in some countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. Interestingly, it can also be seen as a wakeup call for some Christians.
What is exactly Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday comes right after Shrove Tuesday – the last day of the Carnival season. Ash Wednesday, in the Western Christianity Calendar or in the Roman Catholic Church, is the first day of Lent. In Christianity, Lent refers to a period of time of exact forty six days before Easter. Besides, Lent is also a period of preparation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the Easter Day (Easter Sunday). During this time, Christians stop eating some particular food and avoid particular habits. According to research, Ash Wednesday can occur as early as February 4th and as late as March 10th. Plus, Ash Wednesday can be observed in Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Episcopalians as well as Presbyterians.
Ash Wednesday brief history
The practice of placing ashes on part of the body appeared in the fourth century. Penitents had to dress in sackcloth and would be sprinkled with ashes to express their penitence and repentance. However, during the period of the 8th to the 10th century, this kind of practice eventually fell into disuse. But soon after that, in the 11th century, Ash Wednesday gradually developed again and had its own stand in religion until these days.
When is Ash Wednesday 2014?
Ash Wednesday this year 2013 fell on February 13th. Next year 2014, Ash Wednesday will occur on Wednesday, March 5th.
How is Ash Wednesday 2014 identified?
The date of Ash Wednesday is not fixed to a certain day. The reason is because Ash Wednesday depends mainly on the date of Easter (Pascha). Interestingly, Easter is moveable, so that’s why Ash Wednesday is also moveable. In 2014, Easter will take place on April 20th, both in Eastern and Western region. Based on that data, it is obvious to conclude that the date of Ash Wednesday 2014 is exactly on March 5th.
Why is it called Ash Wednesday?
Some non-Christians, when hearing the name Ash Wednesday, are often curious to know about the origin of this name. Ash Wednesday, indeed, derives from the practice of putting ashes in shape of the cross onto the forehead of the participants. More specifically, the marking of ashes in form of a cross on the participants’ forehead symbolizes sins and fault forgiven through Jesus’ death and resurrection. This kind of practice can be considered as a sign of mourning and repentance to God. Not only that, it also reminds human beings of the mortality, change, sorrow for sins, guilt and above all, forgiveness. Plus, on this day, there are some Christians taking part in meaningful activities such as charity events in order that they can step closer to God. Besides, the ashes used for this holiday are very special. They are typically collected from the burning of palm branches used on the Palm Sunday from the previous year.
Ash Wednesday in life
There are some countries admit Ash Wednesday being a public holiday such as Jamaica, French Guiana and the Cayman Islands. Furthermore, in Panama and Guadeloupe, Ash Wednesday serves as a big holiday for government workers and bank’s staff. In addition, it is also a regional holiday in Brazil and some other areas. One more intriguing thing to know, in the Republic of Ireland, this holiday is considered as National No Smoking Day.
What do people do in Ash Wednesday?
In some countries, people have a belief that this holiday is valuable time for them to spend a whole day with friends outside or with family and relatives at home. Besides, there are also lots of people attend Ash Wednesday church services. Plus, it is quite interesting to learn that this day is for people to feel penitent and repent for their wrong-doings in the past. In usual Ash Wednesday, many people undergo fasting by avoiding eating eggs, meat, animal, vegetable oils as well as dairy products, and things will be the same in Ash Wednesday 2014. In addition, activities on this holiday vary from country to country. For instance, in Iceland – a country in Europe, some kids would go from door to door combined with sing songs for treats on Ash Wednesday. Not only that, those children would also try to attach small bags of stones or ashes to the back of other people’s clothing.
Ash Wednesday is truly a great holiday to Christians worldwide. On that holy day, they are placed ashes in form of a cross on their forehead as a sign to show their repentance and receive forgiveness. And the cultures in Ash Wednesday differ in numerous countries, but all of them share a common thing: fasting. Ash Wednesday in this year has already passed, and it will come back in the following year: Ash Wednesday 2014 on March 5th.