The awkwardness of Ash Wednesday

Katie Apple, Staff Writer

No, I don’t need to clean my face. It’s not dirt or makeup, although it looks like I did have a mascara mishap. It’s actually Ash Wednesday!

Last week, Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent, which is the forty days and nights leading up to Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday is a day observed by some Christians, but it is mostly practiced by Catholics. 

People celebrate by having the sign of the cross traced on their foreheads in ashes. This represents a Bible verse related to Lent.

Here in Bloomington, people who practice Ash Wednesday typically encounter stares, weird faces or interesting comments. The celebratory forehead ashes are not as common here and that’s okay.

A very common reaction I’ve gotten are questions asking where the ashes came from. People automatically think of cremation when they hear about or see ashes. You know, like after a family loses a loved one. 

At the start of the week, palm branches are used for the Palm Sunday mass (church service) and are later burned to ashes for Ash Wednesday. 

So no, I am not wearing human or animal ashes.

I’ve had someone try to rub my ashes off. They walked up and rubbed their hand on my head, but I just stepped back and replied with a “no thank you.”

Catholicism is already largely practiced in the United States, however there are other places such as areas in Brazil, Mexico and Europe where catholic traditions are more commonly practiced. 

Forehead ashes on Ash Wednesday are extremely common to see in these places. In fact, it can be more uncommon to not have any. 

Most of my awkward encounters did happen when I was younger, but now only happen occasionally. Perhaps more people are becoming aware of the celebration? 

So next year if you see a classmate with ashes on their forehead, just know it’s for a reason!