7 Interesting Facts About Ash Wednesday, Lent

LAsh.                           (Photo: REUTERS/John Vizcaino)A man receives a cross of ashes during the traditional Ash Wednesday service, at the 20 de Julio Church in Bogota, Colombia February 10, 2016.For nearly a billion Christians, the weeks leading up to Easter are a time of fasting, solemn contemplation, and the giving up of certain luxuries and foods.

Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a season on the liturgical calendar that represents a 40-day period, plus Sundays that are not counted.

There are many traditions and customs associated with Lent. Some, like Ash Wednesday’s ash cross on the forehead and Catholics not eating meat on Fridays, are fairly well known.

Here are seven interesting facts about Lent. They include a ban on alleluia songs, a half-time celebration, and why many Protestants do not observe the season.

                             (Photo: Reuters/John Vizcaino)A Catholic faithful participates in the traditional Ash Wednesday service at the 20 de Julio Church in Bogota, Colombia, February 10, 2016.

1. The Meaning of Ashes

Ash Wednesday worship involves church services where ashes are placed in the shape of a cross on the foreheads of worshipers. The practice is meant to stress mortality and penance.

The usage of ashes for these purposes has a long history in Judeo-Christian circles, as seen in the Old Testament when various figures would wear sackcloth and put ashes on their heads as a solemn call to repentance.

“This act symbolizes our mortality as well as our need for ongoing repentance. It is a reminder that this life is short and merely a foreshadowing of what we shall become through the redemption of Jesus Christ on the cross,” explains catholic.org.

“The work of our redemption will not be complete until we are raised from the dead, in resurrected bodies like His own and called to the eternal communion of heaven.” More: