Ash Wednesday is a special day of repentance observed by many Christians to mark the beginning of Lent -- the 40-day period preceding Easter. Start the season of Lent off the right way.
Step 1: Attend religious services Attend Mass if you are a practicing Roman Catholic. Ash Wednesday services are also held by some Protestant churches.
Step 2: Ponder your origins and destiny Ponder your origins and destiny. A Roman Catholic priest or Christian pastor will mark your forehead with ashes to remind you that you were created from -- and will return to -- dust.
TIP: Members of Protestant churches usually do not have ashes placed on their foreheads.
Step 3: Fast Fast -- Fasting is a key element of the Lenten tradition, and many Christians choose to fast on Ash Wednesday. Fasting might also be appropriate if you happened to overindulge on Mardi Gras, the day that precedes Ash Wednesday.
Step 4: Listen to a Gregorian chant Listen to sacred music, like Gregorian chant. Thought it's not strictly an Ash Wednesday tradition, the custom of marking a penitent's head with ashes on this day is said to have originated during the papacy of Gregory the Great (590-604 CE).
FACT: The ashes placed on the foreheads of penitents on Ash Wednesday are obtained by burning palm leaves that were used in the previous year's Palm Sunday service.