Ash Wednesday is a Christian holy day of prayer, fasting, and repentance. Ash Wednesday derives its name from the placing of repentance ashes on the foreheads of participants to either the words “Repent and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Ash Wednesday marks the start of a 40-day period which alludes to when Jesus separated himself in the desert to fast and pray. During this time, he was tempted. (Matthew 4:1–11, Mark 1:12–13, and Luke 4:1–13).
Ashes were used in ancient times to express grief. Christians continued the practice of using ashes as an external sign of repentance. Many Christian denominations emphasize fasting, as well as abstinence during the season of Lent and in particular Ash Wednesday, praying a Lenten daily devotional, and abstaining from a luxury that they will not partake in until Easter Sunday arrives.