What Kind of Ashes Are Used on Ash Wednesday

Q: What kind of Ashes are used on Ash Wednesday? Where do they come from? How are they blessed, if at all? This question asked by a nine year old girl and typed by her father.

A: The ashes that are used on Ash Wednesday are made from the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday (also called Passion Sunday), which is the Sunday just before Easter.

Palm Sunday is the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem with people waving palm fronds to celebrate his arrival. On Palm Sunday today, the priest or bishop blesses palm fronds which are given to the people. After Mass, the people take the blessed palm fronds home and keep them in their houses all year.

The next year, just before Ash Wednesday, the people bring the palm fronds to church and give them to the priest, who burns them to make ashes, which he then blesses. On Ash Wednesday these are used to make the sign of the cross on people’s foreheads to symbolize that they belong to Christ and that they are sorry for their sins.

The palm fronds, which symbolized joy on Palm Sunday, now become symbols of the fact we are sorry for our sins. This reflects the joy of the people when Jesus first rode into Jerusalem, which turned to sorrow when he died on the Cross to save them from their sins.

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