When Christians go to church on Wednesday, ministers will makes a sign of the cross on their foreheads with ashes, while saying the words, “We are dust and to dust we shall return.”
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, a 40-day period of penitence for Christians leading up to Easter on March 31.
The ashes are created by burning the palm fronds from the previous year’s Palm Sunday services. Palm Sunday recalls Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem when he was welcomed by waving palms. Burning the palms for ashes remind Christians of the joy of Jesus’ coming and the sadness of his death on Good Friday.
Using ashes is a tradition that comes from the Old Testament when the bereaved placed ashes on their heads to mark a tragedy.
Before embarking on the penitential period, several local churches usher in Lent with Mardis Gras events.
For the Rev. Jane Bearden, pastor of Trinity Episcopal Church in Haverhill, Mardis Gras is one of her favorite times of the year because of the green, purple and gold.
Despite the merriment that comes with the holiday, the Louisiana native said Mardi Gras is rooted in the Christian liturgical year.
Tomorrow, members of the Youth Group at Trinity, 26 White St., serve a pancake supper and decorate the hall for the Mardi Gras festivities on Tuesday at 6 p.m., featuring gumbo and King’s cake.
Christ Church parishioners will be serving pancakes, bacon, sausage, and breakfast items on Tuesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The event also includes the 63rd annual pancake toss and the burning of last year’s palms.
Also in Andover, the Women’s Group at Faith Lutheran Church, 360 S. Main St., hosts a tea tomorrow 3:30-5 p.m. A devotional time follows. Actor Frank Runyeon will be at St. Augustine Church, 34 Essex St., Andover on Tuesday to performs a one man portrayal of “Sermon on the Mount” at 7 p.m. At St. Robert Bellarmine Church, 198 Haggetts Pond Road, Andover, hosts a Mardi Gras Mass at 5:30 p.m. Supper follows.