Ash Wednesday is a moveable date 46 days before Easter. It is the first day of Lent and It always follows Shrove Tuesday. Ash Wednesday is traditionally the beginning of 40 days of prayer and abstinence (which is why all the rich foods, ie eggs, milk, flour are eaten as pancakes, on Shrove Tuesday).
The reason Ash Wednesday is a moveable date is because Easter is movable. Easter is always the first Sunday after the full moon after the first day of Spring. In years where you have a full moon so close to the first day of Spring, Easter is later because you have to wait for the full moon after the first day of Spring.
There are six Sundays in this period of Lent – Sundays are not fasting or abstinence days, but ‘feast’ days during Lent.
This day is called Ash Wednesday because ashes in the shape of the cross are placed on worshippers foreheads as a sign of repentence. The ashes are traditionally from the burnt palm leaves of the previous year’s palms from Palm Sunday (Palm Sunday is on the Sunday before Easter).
In biblical times, dusting yourself with ashes was a way of showing sorrow for sins and faults.
Ash Wednesday is ‘National No Smoking Day’ in Ireland and the Irish Heart Foundation is encouraging people to give up smoking, even social smokers. It’s estimated that around one million people smoke in Ireland, and a quarter are regarded as occasional or social smokers. If you smoke 20 cigarettes a day, the Irish Heart Foundation estimates that you spend about 3,500 euros on cigarettes every year.
As Ash Wednesday is a moveable date, it will occur on these dates:
2015 – February 18
2016 – February 10
2017 – March 1
2018 – February 14
2019 – March 6
2020 – February 26
2021 – February 17
2022 – March 2
2023 – February 22
2024 – February 14