The faithful celebrate Ash Wednesday
Feb. 14 is Ash Wednesday, an important day on the Christian religious calendar. It marks the beginning of the Lenten season and involves having ashes placed on the forehead in the shape of a cross. Calendars can vary from one religious group to another. Placement of ashes on the forehead probably traces its origins to early church practice requiring a public show of penitence.
Here are five things to know about the holiday:
The ashes placed on the forehead on Ash Wednesday normally come from the burned remains of the palm leaves of the previous year's Palm Sunday.
For Roman Catholics, the imposition of ashes is part of the Ash Wednesday Mass. The ashes may be washed off after Mass, although many Catholics keep them on into the evening.
The imposition of ashes is usually accompanied by the words, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
The ashes are an outward observance signifying an interior attitude, according to the Vatican's " Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy ."
Ashes as a sign of repentance is as old as the Old Testament , although in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. … But when you fast, put oil on your heads and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret."