How was your Ash Wednesday 2020? Well, this year, Ash Wednesday will take place on the 17th of February. The day holds immense meaning in the hearts of Christians, as it’s the day for repentance for them in case you didn't know when is Ash Wednesday.
Why is Ash Wednesday celebrated? and What is the history of Ash Wednesday?
Christians place repentance ashes and spread it all over their forehead on this special day. Thus, Shrove Tuesday – the day before Ash Wednesday – came on 16th of February. It is also known as Pancake Day in many Christian countries. The day basically celebrates confessions and absolution and everyone performs a ritual in which they burn the Holy Week palms of the previous year and then finalize on one Lenten sacrifice.
Christians across the globe enjoy pancakes and sweets a day before the fasting formally begins for Lent. This day is often called “Carnival Day”. Traditionally, all Western Christian countries observe Ash Wednesday and mark the first day of Lent.
Ash Wednesday is always observed six weeks and a half prior to Easter. In 2021, Good Friday and Easter Sunday will be celebrated on 2nd and 4th April respectively.
Lent is essentially considered to be a period of reflection. This is when all Christian brothers and sister prepare themselves for the great Easter.
Coming back to Ash Wednesday, this is the day of repentance when everyone wipes their soul clean before the Lent fast starts. During the Lent, Christian churches pray and remorse their wrongdoings while seeking forgiveness from God.
A lot of people observe Lent by giving up a particular vice, like smoking or gossiping. Another tradition observed on Ash Wednesday is that Christians attend church services and, after the ceremony, they spread ash in a cross-like sign on their foreheads or cross on forehead bible.
While doing so, they utter the words “Repent and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
However, there are some churches that end their services by washing off the ash signs to suggest that the attendees have been wiped clean of their sins. Many people avoid all luxurious food items and only survive on bread and water until sunset. The period of six and a half weeks is spent in remorse and reflection as the Christians observe fasting.
When Easter arrives, Christians celebrate with a grand feast – a reward of reflection and lent. On Easter, people celebrate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and his resurrection after his death on the cross.
In Ireland, a priest has made “takeaway ashes” for parishioners to administer the ritual at home. Ash Wednesday, as you know, will be observed differently this year due to the pandemic and the fact that not everyone has received vaccines yet. Thus, prayers and religious practices can be carried out without interruption at home. This is Lent 2021 for all of us!
Father Brian Brady has formed an association with a shop in Clonmany, County Donegal, so as to offer holy ashes in sauce containers. Since the Covid-19 restrictions have confined us to our homes— due to which church services are being conducted online— this idea seems like an instant hit!
Father Brian Brady was overwhelmed by the response, and he revealed that all the 600 containers that he had made have been taken away.
"It's a new experience formed to have people wanting to talk to me. There's been a lot of attention and people want more ashes but can't get them." – He said while speaking to BBC radio.
He further added: "A lot of our parishioners would come every year for their ashes and it's so important that we honor those traditions - even at these most difficult times.”
He’s glad to have received such an incredible response and feels happy that he actually took the initiative. He wanted to widen his imagination so that he could hold on to the old traditions and values while adapting to the challenges of current times. It is now being reported that more than 600 containers have already been distributed – one container per household.
He has also provided instructions on how to apply these ashes on the sheets.
"The advice is to moisten them, but to be careful not to moisten too much as they'll run down your forehead and nose as has happened to many a poor soul in the past." – He said.
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Lent begins on Wednesday 17 February and we hope for everyone’s forgiveness!