"Sackcloth and ashes" is a familiar phrase derived from the medieval custom of humbling oneself before God or a church
community to beg forgiveness. But the symbolic use of dust or ashes date even further back -- to the time of Moses and the Old Testament -- as sign of penitence and mourning.
Today, the custom continues each year on Ash Wednesday, as a priest or minister marks the sign of a cross in ashes on the foreheads of the faithful, followed by the solemn intonation : "Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return".
In 2021, Ash Wednesday falls on Wednesday, February 17, 2021 when the tradition is observed by Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans, and Presbyterians worldwide.
DID YOU KNOW? Ash Wednesday fun facts
Ashes that are used are made from
burnt palms that were distributed the
year on Palm Sunday.
• Ashes placed on the heads of the faithful on Ash Wednesday are made from the ashes of burnt palms that were distributed the previous year on Palm Sunday.
• The observance of Lent dates back to the 4th century. The word Lent comes from the Old English word lencten, meaning spring.
• In the Middle Ages, fish and meat were strictly forbidden during the Lenten fast. Today, more relaxed rules means that modern Christians are more likely to give up their favorite desserts or TV programs during Lent.
• To encourage smokers to kick the habit, National No Smoking Day is observed each year in Ireland on Ash Wednesday.
More information about Ash Wednesday around the Web:
Up ahead, learn more about this ancient Christian rite of Spring at top sites detailing the history, traditions and symbolism of Ash Wednesday ...
Wednesday - Everything you ever wanted to know about the Catholic observance in a concise Q&A, including answers regarding its significance to the faithful, specific Biblical references, and how it originated to mark the beginning of Lent..
Wednesday - Wikipedia - A great overview from the online encyclopedia featuring arcane facts and trivia plus a complete list of dates for the moveable observance.