As we have previously reported, Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of church congregants as a sign of repentance.
The ashes come from the Palm Crosses from the previous year’s Palm Sunday, which are burned. In some cases, the ashes are mixed with holy water and then anointed on the forehead in the sign of a cross.
Ash Wednesday kicks off Lent, and is a solemn day of penance that requires fasting in some form.
Ash Wednesday in the Roman Catholic Church, is observed by fasting, abstaining from meat, and repentance. Roman Catholics over 18 years old, are permitted to consume one full meal, or two smaller meals on Ash Wednesday as a form of fasting.
For Catholics, there are certain rules. According to the U.S. bishops, these are the following requirements and rules for fasting on Ash Wednesday:
- Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are required to fast on Ash Wednesday, as well as Good Friday, but this does not mean no food at all.
- U.S. bishops define fasting as eating only one full meal the entire day and two smaller portions of food during breakfast and lunch time, that combined wouldn’t equal a full meal, if necessary. There is to be no snacking in between meals.
- All Catholics 14 years old and older must completely abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, as well as all the Fridays of Lent.
- Eggs, milk products, meat juices, gravies and animal fats are allowed to be consumed, just not the meat itself.