In 2013, Ash Wednesday falls on February 13!
Ash Wednesday is a Christian holiday that marks the first day of Lent and occurs 46 days prior to Easter Sunday (which falls on March 31 this year). Lent is the period of preparation for the resurrection of Christ, and provides Christians with a time for self-examination.
Usually, practicing Christians choose something that they enjoy to “give up” for lent; it could be a particular favorite food, alcohol, caffeine, etc. This exercise allows people to give up a vice of theirs and in turn become closer to God. Another option is for a person to give up something that occupies too much of their time, such as TV. The idea is to then use that extra time to study the Bible, pray, volunteer, or do some other activity that helps others or deepens their faith.
On Ash Wednesday, it is common for Christians to attend church services in which a priest marks their forehead with black ashes in the shape of a cross. The ashes are usually blessed, and are reserved for the “foreheads of the faithful,” who don the ashes until they wear off. Ash Wednesday is also a fasting holiday, in which Christians are asked to abstain from meat.