Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting, is the first day of Lent in Western Christianity. It occurs 46 days (40 fasting days, if the six Sundays, which are not days of fast, are excluded) before Easter and can fall as early as February 4th or as late as March 10th. Unlike some other major holidays, Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation. In other words, believers don’t have to go to church; they are only encouraged to do so in order to properly mark the beginning of Lent.
Believers receive ashes on their foreheads. The ashes come from palms that were burned from the previous Palm Sunday — the Sunday before Easter. Palm Sunday marks Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, where people waved palm branches to celebrate his arrival. The ashes are typically mixed with holy water or oil.
Easter Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus after his crucifixion. The Lenten period, which directly precedes Easter, commemorates the events leading up to his death. By fasting, believers hope to replicate that period of their savior’s suffering.
Ash Wednesday is observed by many Western Christians, including Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Roman Catholics.
In the Bible, there are instances where ashes are associated with mourning, including Jonah 3:6, Esther 4:1 and Isaiah 15:3. This ties into the notion that today’s Lent participants are mourning the period of Jesus’ suffering.
Source: wikipedia.org | crs.org | The Holy Bible
In 2017 Ash Wednesday in USA falls on March 1.