CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting, and the first day of Lent in Western Christianity, a period of 40-some days focused on spiritual purification and repentance.
Black crosses will mark the foreheads of many Christians today, signifying the start of the Lenten season.
It's also a day of fasting for Catholic and Anglican churches.
Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of the distribution of ashes upon the foreheads of Christians.
The ashes come from the palms used in the previous year's Palm Sunday, the Sunday before that marks Jesus's entrance into Jerusalem where he was met with palm branches by believers.
The ashes are meant to remind Christians about human mortality, while also showing the individual's desire for repentance and mourning of their own sins.
As the priest or minister puts the ash on the body he, or she, says "Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return" (Genesis 3:19) or "Repent, and believe the Gospel" (Mark 1:15).
Christians are encouraged to wear the ashes, which can be distributed on either their forehead or hand, until the ashes wear off as a public declaration of their faith.