Hello, your friendly neighborhood Mormon here to ask about Ash Wednesday.

Nope, we don’t do Ash Wednesday, nor do we do Lent. So needless to say we are easily confused when we see people with ash smudges walking around Target. Cody thought it was a joke he wasn’t in on, I was oblivious and my friend PolkaDots thought her friend had print toner smudged on her forehead and tried to wipe it off.


So (please correct me if I’m wrong) Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the 40 days until Easter that represent the time Jesus spent in the desert, where, according to the Bible, he endured the temptation of Satan. Wearing smudges of burnt palm leaves on one’s forehead is an ancient ritual that marks the beginning of the Lenten season on (the name is all making sense now) Ash Wednesday.

So that’s good to know. And kind of (not to sound condescending) neat.
You see, growing up in Utah there weren’t a whole lot of Catholics, Episcopalians and Methodists milling about (at least that I knew about). Another thing someone who doesn’t hang with a big Lent observing crowd should know is that a lot of restaurants change their menus during Lent. I’ve noticed that Wendy’s now has a fish sandwich, Taco Bell has a “Lent friendly” menu and apparently Chipotle “puts the burrito back in Lent.”

Things I would have never understood until moving here. I don’t remember ever seeing “Lent friendly burritos” in Utah. But caffeine free Mountain Dew? Only in Utah baby, only in Utah.

So to all my Lent observing peeps, do you not eat any meat (excluding fish) during Lent? What about eggs and stuff? Anything else I should know?

And does anyone else have any “I didn’t know about Ash Wednesday and tried to wipe someone’s smudges off” stories? PolkaDots was pretty embarrassed and would appreciate any commiseration.

Have I offended anyone? I sure hope not, because that is so not my thing.


  1. Presbyterians also observe Lent but are not as strict as Catholics. We don’t fast on Ash Wednesday or abstain from meat on Fridays. We are encouraged to give something up for the 40 days. One year my dad gave up beer and thought my mom was going to kill him by the end of Lent! I gave up sweets this year and I am craving chocolate big time right now. It is also a time for reflection and a lot of churches do special Bible studies during this time.

    Ashley’s last blog post..Recovering

  2. I gave up wine for Lent.

    I like to aim high.

    Redneck Mommy’s last blog post..Her Mother is a Boob

  3. I tried to wipe the ash of the receptionist at work. Just as my hand touched her forehead six other co-workers jumped in to stop me. Then they all started talking about Ash Wednesday. I was lost, and obviously the only non-catholic in the room.

    The Farmer’s Wife’s last blog post..Cough Syrup, Me, Myself and I

  4. The lone Catholic girl in elementary school explained Ash Wednesday to me in first grade.

    Although I’m not Catholic, I have adopted & adapted some of the traditions of various religions. In honor of Lent this year I’m giving up soda.

    Adria Sha’s last blog post..Julie Morgenstern wants to know, don’t you?

  5. As another Presbyterian, I wanted to chime in too. We don’t necessarily “give something up” for Lent, although we do observe Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season.

    In my church, we were encouraged to take on some kind of practice to be more mindful of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, and more prayerful.

    Liza’s last blog post..The Big Winner? Democracy

  6. Holy crap, when I moved to Washington I called Pepsi distribution and asked where I could get my favorite drink, Diet Caffeine Free Mountain Dew. They told me there wasn’t such a thing! Whatever, I bring two 24-packs back with me every time I go to Utah to visit my family.

    Oh, and I dated a Catholic for two years in college…in Utah. There is a such number of Catholics in Carbon County. Who knew? (Oh, and on Ash Wednesday, in Carbon County, Utah…there were tons of people whose foreheads I tried to wipe off. I suck.)

    Isabel’s last blog post..Because I have been given much

  7. Nicole M is on the money. One thing that can be mentioned is that an act of charity can replace abstaining from meat on Fridays.
    The other thing is that even during Lent, Sundays are always a feast day, so lenten observances are set aside for Sundays. And if you count out the days from Ash Wednesday to Easter, you realize that there are more than 40. This is because Sundays don’t count, so to speak.

  8. Just an FYI: all Mountain Dew is caffeine-free in Canada!

    dana’s last blog post..Warmth Continues

  9. I’m that girl who goes “you have something on your forehead!” I love being Jewish.

    I went to a mostly jewish high school, so we all got confused when about 50 students/teachers showed up with “schmutz” on their heads. and then we were like “ohhh. Ash Wednesday?” (honestly without this post I wouldn’t have realized it was tomorrow)

  10. Never tried to wipe it off, but I was all, “Uh, you’ve got some (points), uh, something on your forehead.”


    Jennifer Harveys last blog post..Toward light

  11. Lifeling Lutheran here; the daughter and granddaughter of Lutheran pastors, too!

    There are 40 days in Lent (to emulate Jesus’ 40 days in the desert – 40 in a re-occurring number in the Christian faith), but days like Sundays (considered “mini-Easters”) and Good Friday, etc. don’t count towards the total.

    Lent is a season of prayer and fasting. In modern day, the fasting usually involves giving up a particular food or drink (like chocolate or caffeine, etc.). Additionally, some actually fast a day or so a week – or fast as a family on a certain day each week (they would do simple broth soup or PB sandwiches instead) and donate the $$$ not used to produce the meal to a charity. I think the most important part is not the actual fasting part – but the reflection and discussion of justice and faith that evolves within a family as a result of action of fasting. While some Catholics do fast completely (or abstain from fish, etc.) on certain days, etc., most Protestants do not follow this practice.

    Generally, the three practices of Lent are prayer, fasting and charity.

    As for the ashes – yes, they are traditionally made from palm leaves, though this is not a requirement in Lutheranism. I always thought my dad had an interesting take on the creation of the ashes that he used. After Epiphany (January 6, we don’t take our trees down until then!) he would cut off all the limbs off the tree and set them aside in the garage. He would then use the truck of the tree (cut in two) to create a cross that he would display in our yard during the Lenten season. He would also burn some of the trunk, mix the ashes with a bit of oil to create the Ash Wednesday ashes.

    This year, I am giving up refined sugars for Lent. I am all at once looking forward to it and dreading it!

    BethanyWDs last blog post..Grace in Small Things, Volume 3.

  12. you have a friend named Polka Dots? That’s crazy, Almost as crazy as caffein free mountain dew.

    Hippo Brigades last blog post..All Dressed Up With No Where to Go

  13. Here’s my very own smudge, circa 2007: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kladish/399294893/

    (Hi, you are probably the least offensive person ever.)

    Kerri Annes last blog post..Five, Seven, Five

  14. I don’t mean to stray from main topic but I just wanted to say that Caffeine Free Mountain Dew is so good. You can buy it in Indy.. not just Canada! 🙂