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In the Western Christian calendar, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. It is exactly forty-four days before Good Friday: the period from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday, including both of those days, consists of forty-five days; the six Sundays during that time are not counted among the forty days of Lent; the day after Good Friday is counted.
Some Christians treat Ash Wednesday as a day for remembering one's mortality. Masses are traditionally held on this day, and attendees who receive communion on this day are blessed with ashes by the priest ministering the ceremony. The minister marks the forehead of each celebrant with black ashes, leaving a mark that the worshipper traditionally leaves on his or her forehead until sundown, before washing it off.
Being the first day of Lent, it comes the day after Shrove Tuesday. In certain parts of the UK, Ash Wednesday similarly involves the ritual consumption of a food stuff; in this case the homonymous dish hash.
In 2004 it falls on February 25. It varies each year, according to the date of Easter that year.