Ash Wednesday is the day Lent begins, which is a 40 day period when complete devotion is given to the Christian God.
During the 40 days, Catholics commit themselves to sacrificing self-indulgencies, consisting of penance, meditation, and fasting.
These practices honor the sacrifices Jesus went through, before dying on the cross and his resurrection on Easter.
The Roman Catholic Church commemorates this holiday by placing ashes mixed with holy water in the form of a cross on the foreheads of congregants — hence the name Ash Wednesday. Ashes are made from last year’s palms from Palm Sunday.
According to Catholic.org, aside from this symbol representing the practices of penance, it’s also meant to represent the sacrifices and merciful nature of the Christian god.
According to NewAdvent.org, it may seem like fasting for 40 days can lead to starvation, however the term fasting isn’t taken literal to its full extent. The rules of fasting during Lent, reportedly require that people over 14 years old eat only one full meal a day, with a small snack during breakfast, and around afternoon or evening.