- (Photo: Reuters/Ammar Awad)
Ash Wednesday has arrived, with millions of Christians ushering in the Lent season by receiving ashen crosses on their foreheads.
The tradition, which falls 46 days before Easter- 40 if not counting Sundays- marks the beginning of self-denial and reflection season.
Ash Wednesday occurs right after Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, when many prepare for the fasting season of Lent. Many Christians chose to fast or abstain from rich or fatty foods during the 40 days and 40 nights of Lent, intended to emulate Jesus' 40 days and 40 nights in the desert.
On Wednesday, Christians may choose to deny themselves something- fast food, alcohol, or any other indulgence as a way of strengthening their relationship with God.
Although some denominations do not practice the application of ashes to the forehead as a mark of public commitment on Ash Wednesday, those that do include Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and some Baptist followers.
The ashes themselves come from the previous year's palms used during Palm Sunday. The tradition of applying ashes comes from the Bible, as ashes are repeatedly cited in times of mourning and repentance.
The day of religious observation has created a buzz on Twitter, with many Christians posting their plans for Lent.
"Ash Wednesday," wrote MM. "Reflect. Forgive, forget, let go, and let God."
Father Jonathan posted, "On this Ash Wednesday let's make our first sacrifice of turning over The Lord every anxiety and fear."
"Most gracious God we come praying on this Ash Wednesday as we remember our Lord Jesus' trek toward Calvary," wrote John. "Thank you for such love, Amen."
Meanwhile, Easter lands on Sunday, March 31 this year. Many Christians celebrate Easter with special church services, hide-and-seeking eggs, and a feast.
Wednesday also marks National Break Up Day, landing one day ahead of the romantic holiday, Valentine's Day, on Feb. 14.