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Carnival/Ash Wednesday in the United Kingdom

Many Christian churches in the United Kingdom observe Ash Wednesday as the first day of Lent. It is the day after Shrove Tuesday.

Is Carnival/Ash Wednesday a Public Holiday?

Carnival/Ash Wednesday is not a public holiday. Businesses have normal opening hours.


Some churches in the United Kingdom hold special services for Ash Wednesday.

©iStockphoto.com/Sean Locke

What Do People Do?

Ash Wednesday in the United Kingdom is a day of penitence to cleanse the soul before fasting during the Lent period. Some Christians may attend special church services to receive the ash in the sign of the cross on their foreheads as a symbol of being sorry and repentant for their wrongdoings.

Priests in many churches use the ashes from palms that were burned from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. The ashes are mixed with blessed holy water and priests use this special paste by dipping their thumbs in it and using it to make the sign of the cross on individuals’ foreheads.  Priests in some churches also mix the ash with anointing oil to remind the congregation of God’s blessings and of baptism.

Some Christians leave the mark of the cross on their foreheads after they leave the church service. This is so that they can carry the sign of the cross into the world. Others may choose to wash the ashes as a sign that they are now spiritually clean and their sins have been wiped away.

Public Life

Ash Wednesday is not a public holiday in the United Kingdom. Many churches may have special Ash Wednesday services so street parking near the churches may be full around during this time.

Background and Symbols

The Ash Wednesday date varies each year depending on the Easter date. The Easter date depends on the ecclesiastical approximation of the March equinox. The Lenten fast lasts for 40 days prior to the Easter period, excluding Sundays. A general article about Ash Wednesday worldwide covers more information about its background and symbols.

About Carnival/Ash Wednesday in other countries

Read more about Carnival/Ash Wednesday.

Carnival/Ash Wednesday Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2010WedFeb 17Carnival/Ash WednesdayChristian 
2011WedMar 9Carnival/Ash WednesdayChristian 
2012WedFeb 22Carnival/Ash WednesdayChristian 
2013WedFeb 13Carnival/Ash WednesdayChristian 
2014WedMar 5Carnival/Ash WednesdayChristian 
2015WedFeb 18Carnival/Ash WednesdayChristian 
2016WedFeb 10Carnival/Ash WednesdayChristian 
2017WedMar 1Carnival/Ash WednesdayChristian 
2018WedFeb 14Carnival/Ash WednesdayChristian 
2019WedMar 6Carnival/Ash WednesdayChristian 
2020WedFeb 26Carnival/Ash WednesdayChristian 

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