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British Life & Culture

Special Events and Celebrations

by Mandy Barrow

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Ash Wednesday
(The Day of Ashes)
Woodlands Junior School is in the south-east corner of England

Ash Wednesday 2014 is on 5 March
six-and-a-half weeks before Easter.

The Christian season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday.

The date of Ash Wednesday varies each year according to the date of Easter. It is always six-and-a-half weeks before Easter. The earliest possible date of Ash Wednesday is 4 February and the latest possible date is 10 March.

To find out about Lent click here

What is Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is a Christian festival. It marks the beginning of six and a half weeks of repentance, fasting and abstinence in preparation for the most important Christian festival of Easter.

When is Ash Wednesday?

In 2014 Ash Wednesday will be on 5 March.

2009 — 25 February
2010 — 17 February
2011 — 9 March
2012 — 22 February
2013 — 13 February

2014 — 5 March
2015 — 18 February
2016 — 10 February
2017 — 1 March
2018 — 14 February

Why is it called Ash Wednesday?

Ashes are something that are left when something is burned.

For Christians, ashes are a symbol of being sorry for things they have done wrong and want to get rid of forever. It is also a reminder to them that we all come from ashes, and to ashes we all will return.

Why are ashes marked on the forehead?

For Christians, the marking on the forehead with ash marks the commitment to Jesus Christ and God. They wanted to show God that they were sorry for the wrong things they had done in the past year.

Using a mark on the forehead as a sign of commitment is also used in many Middle Eastern cultures where a round, coloured circle is marked on the forehead.

What happens on Ash Wednesday today?

Many Christians will attend a religious service where the ashes are blessed by the church leader, and placed on their forehead.

ash on forehead

Christians believe this marks the physical and spiritual beginning of a personal Lent season in which 40 days of repentance will begin leading up to the celebration of Easter Sunday.

The actual moment when the forehead is marked initiates the beginning of lent for each individual person.

What are the ashes made from?

In churches the priest first burns the palm

that have been kept from last year's Palm Sunday and then mixes the ashes of these crosses with holy water (which has been blessed) to make a greyish paste. When people go to church on Ash Wednesday, the priest dips his thumb in the paste and uses it to make the sign of the cross on each person's forehead. copyright of

Why are last years Palm Crosses recycled?

Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus's triumphant entry into Jerusalem, so when the crosses used in the last years Palm Sunday service are converted to ashes, worshippers are reminded that defeat and crucifixion swiftly followed triumph.

What do the ashes symbolise?
Using ashes to mark the cross on the believer's forehead symbolises that through Christ's death and resurrection, all Christians can be free from sin.

An Ash Wednesday Tradition

Childhood Memory in England
I remember putting an ash twig down my sock on Ash Wednesday. This was to keep me safe, as anyone who did not have an ash twig could have their foot stamped on.

Click here to download this page (PDF)

Do you know about Lent and why it is forty days?

Read about what one English kid does on Easter Day

LentMothering Sunday

back to the topLearn about England and the other countries in Britain
from the children who live in there


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Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website. 
The two websites and 
are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources.

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consulatant. 
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.