"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 2018, Ash Wednesday falls on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 when the tradition is observed by Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans, and Presbyterians worldwide.
Occasionally, the celebration of love and romance on Valentines Day falls on or near Ash Wednesday. Since Valentines Day and Ash Wednesday share the exact same date in 2018, church officials suggest either observing Valentines Day the day before Ash Wednesday, or keeping the more secular holiday a bit more subdued this year to mark the beginning of the Lenten fasting period.
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.