Christians in several traditions will observe today as Ash Wednesday, the start of six weeks of Lent. The season is a period of solemnity before Good Friday, the traditional observance of Jesus' death, which will fall on April 3 this year.
Ash Wednesday takes its name from ashes daubed on the faithful as a sign of penitence, with the traditional words, "Remember you are dust and will return to dust.''
Lent is a somber season marked by prayer, introspection and repentance. For Catholics, it also includes fasting and abstinence from meat on Fridays for those 14 years and older.
Eastern Orthodox Christians, who still use the ancient Julian calendar, begin Lent on Feb. 23 this year. However, they will join Protestants and Roman Catholics in celebrating Easter on April 12.
— James D. Davis