Ash Wednesday - what does it all mean?

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and occurs 46 days before Easter. It is a moveable date & can occur as early as February 4 or as late as March 10. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a 40-day period of prayer and fasting. Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of adherents as a sign of mourning and repentance to God.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem palm leaves were laid in his path.  This is celebrated on Palm Sunday when crosses made from palm leaves are given to the congregation. The palm crosses are burnt and used to mark the forehead on Ash Wednesday to show that the participant is preparing for Lent.