Ash Wednesday, in the Western Christian calendar, is the first day of Lent and occurs forty days (not counting Sundays) before Easter. It is a moveable fast, falling on a different date each year because it is dependent on the date of Easter. It can occur as early as 4 February or as late as 10 March.
Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of adherents as a sign of repentance. The ashes used are typically gathered after the Palm Crosses from the previous year's Palm Sunday are burned. In the liturgical practice of some churches, the ashes are mixed with the Oil of the Catechumens (one of the sacred oils used to anoint those about to be baptized), though some churches use ordinary oil. This paste is used by the minister who presides at the service to make the sign of the cross, first upon his or her own forehead and then on those of congregants. The minister administering ashes recites the words: "Remember (O man) that you are dust, and to dust you shall return", "Repent, and believe the Gospel," or "Turn away from sin, and be faithful to the Gospel."
Lent is also a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline.
Not all Christian churches observe Ash Wednesday or Lent. They are mostly observed by the Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Anglican denominations, and also by Roman Catholics. Eastern Orthodox churches observe Lent or Great Lent, during the 6 weeks or 40 days preceding Palm Sunday with fasting continuing during the Holy Week of Easter. Lent for Eastern Orthodox churches begin on Monday and Ash Wednesday is not observed.
The Bible does not mention Ash Wednesday or the custom of Lent, however, the practice of repentance and mourning in ashes is found in 2 Samuel 13:19; Esther 4:1; Job 2:8; Daniel 9:3; and Matthew 11:21.
MY PERSONAL THOUGHTS
I was not raised in a church culture that formally observed Lent Season. But over the last 5 years or so I have come to appreciate it to be a meaningful time to reflect on my own spirituality. I do use the Lent season as a time for concentrated prayers, fasting, and repentance and I would encourage you to do the same. Start TODAY! Or you can do as I do; take a week, ten days, or 21 days within the forty days to really focus on your relationship with God.