17 February 2010, Wednesday, 11:46
author: Eugene Rakhimkulov
Catholics begin the Lent and the day, which opens it, is traditionally called Ashy Wednesday and in accordance with the ancient traditions the believers sprinkle their heads with ashes. The tradition of sprinkling of heads with ashes is preserved in different directions of Christianity; it comes still from ancient Jews and symbolizes sorrow and penance.
The first cases of sprinkling the heads with ashes were observed among Christians in the III century. Since the XIV century this tradition could be met in Europe everywhere. Following this ceremony the priests remind the penitents that they appeared from the ashes. On Ashy Wednesday the olive and pussy-willow branches, kept since the last Palm Sunday during almost the whole year, are taken out and burnt. The ashes are sanctified and used in the ceremony of sprinkling the heads with ashes.
Catholics have to observe especially severe fast during Ashy Wednesday – they mustn’t eat meat and may eat fruits and vegetables only once a day.