Non-Catholics: How important is Ash Wednesday?

Having been raised Catholic, Ash Wednesday has always been a pretty big deal. Obviously, it’s not observed as well as Christmas or Easter, but you still have a lot of people who don’t usually attend mass go to church that day. Also it’s a meatless day and a fast day. If you’re a non-Catholic Christian how important is this day? Do most churches have special services and how well attended are they? How much effort do your fellow churchgoers put into observing the day?

I was raised Southern Baptist so ash Wednesday was slightly less important than Potluck Tuesday. In other words I never heard of it until I moved out of Alabama and met a catholic and asked him why his forehead was dirty…

I was raised Presbyterian; I’d heard of Ash Wednesday, but I didn’t know what it was about, or that Catholics make that mark on their forehead. The first time I saw it was when I was about 33 and in law school, and I noticed that three or four of my classmates looked funny.

Much like askeptic, I asked a friend, “Why do those people have dirt on their faces?”

I never heard of Ash Wednesday until I moved from UT to CA.

I’m no longer a practicing Christian, but when I was, our denomination did nothing special to observe the day.

Episcopalians do Ash Wednesday and Lent. I was at the church at 6:00 last night for the choir warm up, followed by a service which started at 7 and ran over an hour, including getting ashes put on my forehead. We also do Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, on which we eat pancakes.

I couldn’t tell you anything about Ash Wednesday beyond its name & that it happens some time between New Years & Easter if my life depended on it.

It’d be guesswork if I told you the traditional ceremonies involved ashes somehow. Athough whether that means the species of tree or the results of a fire I don’t know.

Me? Late 40s well-educated well-read utterly non-religious 'merkin.

Raised Dutch Reformed (Calvinist) and even though I read the Bible frequently during my childhood, I couldn’t tell you the significance now. I don’t think we did anything special for the day. (I was even surprised yesterday a couple different times upon seeing people with ashes on their foreheads.)

Non-Christian here. Before reading this thread, I could have told you nothing about Ash Wednesday. Diwali and Chinese New Year get more press here.

In the Anglican tradition, Ash Wednesday as the beginning of Lent is an important day in the calendar, but in my experience, there’s considerable variation in how it is observed. The factors seem to be parish size and liturgical traditions in each parish. Smaller parishes are less likely to have a service mid-week, in my experience. As well, some parishes are more “high” and some more “low”, and imposition of ashes is one of the things that some parishes may do and others may not.

In the little country church I grew up in, I don’t recall a mid-week service (although we did do Shrove Tuesday - pancakes - yum!) City churches seem more likely to have a service. And I don’t recall the actual imposition of ashes until I was at university, where there was a strong Anglican presence due to the theological college.

I’m United Methodist by upbringing and present choice of church.

Ash Wednesday is kinda meh. I attended services last night, and got an ashy cross put on my forehead. But I’d estimate less than a quarter of the number of people who attend a typical Sunday Service bothered to show up. And those who were there leaned heavily towards choir members (who would have been in the choir loft at that time on an ordinary Wednesday as well–for choir practice). Attending Ash Wednesday Services was something I did growing up–daughter of a choir member–so it is somewhat of a priority for me. I’m not sure I’ve always ended up with an ashy forehead, though.

Most people do not dress up as much as they do for Sunday services, although there are a few who were wearing their work clothes which may have been dressier than normal Sunday clothes.

As the daughter of a UCC minister I had heard of Ash Wednesday as being the start of Lent. However, I thought that ash thing was just an expression held over from bible days and never saw anyone with ashes till I was 21 years old and in college. I did declare myself an atheist at 7 and refused to go to church or Sunday school after that so there may be a hiccup in my religious training.

Oh, and depending on my father’s congregation he might occasionally give ashes but many of the churches he’s served have felt that was “too Catholic”.

In our little Episcopal church it depends on the person. I went to the noon service yesterday, but I washed my forehead before I came back to work. My Roman Catholic colleague lectured me about it, and she went around making sales calls with a dirty face all day. I understand the symbolism of the ashes, and I like the service to properly prepare for Lent, but wearing the ashes all day is a little like wearing a big pectoral cross – it’s show-offy and unnecessary.

In both Methodist churches that I’ve attended they did an evening service including the ashes. Crowds were always somewhat smaller than on a normal Sunday.

I should mention that, when I finally did see someone with ashes, I told them they had a smudge on their head.

The church I grew up in didn’t do anything special for it. The presbyterian church I went to for a couple years as an adult did.

It is coming up sometime soon isn’t it? (I don’t keep up on these things anymore)

I was raised a baptist in the south and I knew nothing about Ash Wednesday until I went off to college.

Yesterday, actually. :slight_smile:
I was RAISED Catholic, but went through a bit of a separation from the Church from the time I left for college onward. About six years after I stopped going to church, I happened to notice an awful lot of the customers at the deli where I bought lunch had dirty foreheads. It actually took me about 10 seconds or so to realize that it was because it was Ash Wednesday! Somehow, I’d managed to unintentionally avoid seeing any Catholics on every Ash Wednesday in between, I guess…

Told ya I don’t keep up. :slight_smile: Ahh, that explains that one woman I saw on the way home yesterday. You’d think living in such a heavily hispanic neighborhood I would have seen more.

My boyfriend and his family are cultural Catholics–they don’t go to church or anything, but they never forget the holidays, even if they don’t exactly observe them religiously.

So yesterday he and I anointed each other with ash. That’s it. Then I asked him what he was giving up for Lent and he came up with these brilliant ideas:

beef (we’re vegetarians)

I’m sure the Church will be very impressed by his list.