Crowds of people leave the church. A cross of black ashes marks each person’s forehead. It’s Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.

Lent is a Christian religious season. It begins with Ash Wednesday, which falls sometime in February or March. Lent ends about 40 days later on Easter Sunday. The 40 days of Lent remind people of the 40 days Jesus fasted in the wilderness.

Today, many Christians fast by giving up such luxuries as sweets during Lent. They also think about the things they have done wrong in their lives.

In many countries, special foods are eaten during Lent. In Ireland, people have a Lenten dish called champ. It is made of hot mashed potatoes with green onions and served with a lump of butter in the middle.

Ash Wednesday is observed in Roman Catholic churches and in some Protestant churches. In Catholic churches, ashes from burned palm leaves are blessed and used to mark a cross on each person’s forehead. The ashes remind people that they came from dust and will one day return to dust.

Early Christians felt the importance of Easter called for special preparations. The first mention of a 40-day period of fasting in preparation for Easter is found in the Canons of Nicaea (AD 325). It is thought that the tradition may have grown from the early church practice of baptismal candidates undergoing a 40-day period of fasting in preparation for their baptism at Easter. Eventually, the season evolved into a period of spiritual devotion for the whole church. During the initial centuries, the Lenten fast was very strict but relaxed over time.

Picture Credit : Google