Today marks an important date in the Christian calendar as faith members observe Ash Wednesday.

The religious holiday follows Shrove Tuesday – aka Pancake Day – and signals the coming of the Lent.

After this period, Christians around the world will celebrate Easter commemorating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

But what exactly Ash Wednesday and where did its name derive from?

What is Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, and falls six and a half weeks before Easter.

The Lenten period is one of reflection and repentance of sin, with those who observe it expected to seek reconciliation with God.

Many choose to give up an indulgence, or fast, during Lent as a representation of the Temptation of Christ as he fasted for 40 days and nights in the Judaean Desert.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Why is it called Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday gets its name from early traditions in the Christian Church in Rome, when penitents and sinners would partake in a period of public penance.

During this, they were sprinkled with ashes and dressed in a sackcloth until they were reconciled with church-goers on Maundy Thursday.

This practice had faded by the 10th Century, whereby Lent was marked by places ashes in the shape of a cross on observers’ foreheads.

The ashes come from burning palms used on Palm Sunday.

MORE: What does Mardi Gras mean and when does it take place?

MORE: Pancake Day 2020: Why do we have Shrove Tuesday and what does it mean?