For most Christians, Ash Wednesday marked the start of the Lenten season, which leads up to their holiest day of the year – Easter Sunday..
Catholics and many Protestants received an ashen cross on their foreheads, to remind them of their own mortality and invite them to seek repentance and introspection.
The 40-day spiritual journey that begins with the starkness of Ash Wednesday will end with the joy of Easter (April 5), when Christians will celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
Lent has been observed by Catholics, Orthodox Christians and many mainline Protestants for centuries.
Sundays are not included in the Lenten count because Sunday is the day of the Resurrection. The time span of 40 days reflects the 40 days the Bible says Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted by Satan.