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Ash Wednesday in the United States

Many Christian Americans mark Ash Wednesday as the first day of Lent. It follows Shrove Tuesday, which features Mardi Gras celebrations.

Is Ash Wednesday a Public Holiday?

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

Ash is an important symbol of Ash Wednesday in many Christian churches.

©iStockphoto.com/Ben Beltman

What Do People Do?

Some Christians in the United States attend special Ash Wednesday church services. This includes students who attend Catholic and other church schools. Priests usually place blessed ashes in form of the cross on individuals’ foreheads to remind them of mortality, sorrow for sins, change, and forgiveness.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lenten discipline for observant Christians. It is traditionally a time of fasting and prayer in preparation for receiving or reaffirming baptism at Easter. For some Christians, Lent is a time to think about one’s life choices and mortality, as well as reflect on life directions. It serves as a wakeup call for some Christians. There are also those who choose this time of the year to donate to charities or take part in charity events as a way to get close to God.

Public Life

Ash Wednesday is an observance and not a federal public holiday in the United States.

Background and Symbols

The practice of marking foreheads with ashes is common among Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans and Episcopalians in the United States. However some Methodist and Presbyterian churches adopted this custom in recent times, especially around the 1990s. A general article about Ash Wednesday worldwide covers more information about its background and symbols.

About Ash Wednesday in other countries

Read more about Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday Observances

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

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