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Ash Wednesday 2024 | The First Day of Lent

What is Lent?

Ash Wednesday 2024 begins the Lenten season. Lent is the time before Easter when Catholics prepare to commemorate Jesus’s Resurrection through prayer, penance, and fasting.

Mark Your Calendar: When is Ash Wednesday in 2024?

Ash Wednesday falls on February 14, 2024, marking the beginning of the Lenten season.

During Lent, there are many special days and phrases. These include Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Maundy Thursday, Holy Week, Palm Sunday, Passion Sunday, dust to dust, and more. If you’re looking for answers about public penance, ashes on the forehead, or Jesus Christ, Catholic Answers has you covered.

Lent is approximately forty days long. If you count the days from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper, you’ll find more than forty days. That’s why it’s not exactly forty days.

Sundays are a part of this period. Some people don’t give up things on Sundays during Lent, and that’s okay because our sacrifices are voluntary. But fasting on Ash Wednesday and not eating meat on Fridays during Lent are mandatory, unless you’re too young or old.

History of Lent

Significance of Ash Wednesday:

Ash Wednesday is not mandatory in the Catholic Church, so going to Mass is a personal choice. However, many Catholics observe this day by attending Mass and receiving ashes on their forehead. The priest may say the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” emphasizing the virtues of penance and humility.

Fasting on Ash Wednesday

Fasting and abstinence are observed on Ash Wednesday. Catholics aged eighteen until sixty are required to fast.

This involves eating one full meal and two smaller meals. The total amount of food consumed in the two smaller meals should not be equal to a full meal. Additionally, all Catholics over the age of fourteen are expected to abstain from meat on this day.

What’s the Deal with Ashes on Ash Wednesday?

Purpose of Lenten Season:

Lent is a time of spiritual preparation, self-examination, and penance leading up to the celebration of Easter. Catholics use this time to imitate Jesus’ forty days of fasting in the desert. It is an opportunity for us to deepen our relationship with God, seek forgiveness for sins, and grow in spiritual discipline. Catholics focus on self-denial, prayerful reflection, and charitable acts as a means of drawing closer to God.

Penance and Fasting During Lent: Do I have to give something up for Lent?

Catholic Answers Quick Guide for Ash Wednesday and Lent

Download our free PDF, which takes you from Ash Wednesday until Lent ends with the beginning of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening.


“Lent is a season of intense prayer, fasting, and concern for those in need. It offers all Christians an opportunity to prepare for Easter by serious discernment about their lives, with particular attention to the word of God which enlightens the daily journey of all who believe.”

– Pope St. John Paul II


In the season of Lent, let us embrace the call to penance, prayer, and almsgiving. Through self-discipline and reflection, may we draw closer to the transformative love of Christ, preparing our hearts for the joy of Easter.

Additional Resources:

20 Answers: Seasons and Feasts
This booklet demystifies the “Church calendar,” explaining the beautiful way in which our prayers and observances are ordered throughout the liturgical year. It also clears up common misconceptions about certain Catholic practices and offers tips on participating in the Church’s seasons and feasts more fruitfully.

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis
This classic is the second most read spiritual book after the Bible, and for centuries has had an astonishing impact on the lives of countless saints, peasants, and popes.

The Confessions by St. Augustine
People consider The Confessions one of the greatest Christian classics of all time.

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