Today is Ash Wednesday, which means that you’ll see some people with grayish smudges on their foreheads. But don’t worry: they know it’s there.
The day gets its name from the practice of having the sign of a cross rubbed on one’s forehead as a symbol of repentance. The ashes, incidentally, come from the burning of crosses made from palm branches that were collected at the previous Palm Sunday.
Years ago, I worked with a wonderful artist who is Catholic, and each Ash Wednesday, he’d come to work with the ash mark, and nearly everyone who encountered him told him he had something on his head. Over the years, it became something of a joke, especially when someone who had told him the year before, only to have him explain why it was there, managed to forget and remind him again.
Ash Wednesday also marks the beginning of Lent, the 40-day Christian observance of sacrifice and fasting in preparation for the observance of Christ’s death and resurrection. The tradition has observers giving up something during the 40 days.
I’m giving up junk food. No Doritos, no ice cream, no doughnuts, none of those wonderful bad things I enjoy a little too much. I’m also trying to phase out as much fast food as I can in the same maneuver: if my schedule forces me to go with fast food as an only option, it’ll have to be a salad instead of a burger.
It’ll be tough, but easier with a little focus.
Do you observe lent? Are you giving up anything?