Today is Ash Wednesday and we hope your tummy is happy and full of pancakes from yesterday, but why do we celebrate it?

Ash Wednesday signals the beginning of Lent, when Christians give something up for 40 days and 40 nights.

Mass is held to celebrate the start of Lent and ashes are used to mark a cross on the congregation's foreheads to symbolise repentance of sin.

It is an important day in the Christian calendar as it marks the first day of fasting, repentance, prayer and self-control that will be required during Lent.

Why do they use ashes?

Ash is used to represent grief and so Christians wear the cross on their head to show the tragedy of Jesus’ crucifixion.

The day is also about repentance so that they can be prepared for a ‘Holy Death’ like Jesus.

The cross is a nod to the biblical passage “For dust you are and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19).

What is lent?

Lent is when Christians abstain and fast to symbolise Jesus in the desert. The period technically lasts for 46 days but it is only 40 days of fasting because the six Sundays leading up to Easter Sunday are not included.

There are different rules though, some people say you have to see it through with no exceptions, while others say you can have Sundays off and break your fast. It is about the symbolism of fasting like Jesus did.

Why do we celebrate Shrove Tuesday the day before?

The carnival day is the last day of gluttony and encourages households to use up the last rich ingredients they have before Lent begins. Foods such as butter, eggs and sugar form the pancakes that millions now enjoy on this day each year.

Let us know what you are giving up for Lent.