Ash Wednesday is a day in Western Christianity that marks the beginning of Lent. Christians keep the season of Lent by prayer, devotion, fasting and acts of charity. Ash Wednesday marks the 40 day period of preparation for the celebration of Holy Week and Easter. (Sundays are in Lent, but not counted as days of Lent)
On Ash Wednesday, the priest will take ashes, made by burning last year's palms from Palm Sunday, and gently marks the sign of the cross on the foreheads of the worshipers.
Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou
hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are
penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that
we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our
wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our
Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.