Catholics and other Christians across the region this week will celebrate Ash Wednesday, which will start the 40-day period of Lent leading up to Easter Sunday.

It is customary for Catholics to have ashes placed on their foreheads during the day, which the Rev. Peter Saporito, of St. Padre Pio Parish in Vineland, said are used to remind Catholics of their mortality on Earth.

“It’s to remind us we will return to the ashes of the Earth and rise up (to the heavens), like Jesus did,” he said. “It reminds us to turn away from sin and toward Jesus.”

On Ash Wednesday, Catholics traditionally pray, fast and abstain from meat. During Lent they also refrain from eating meat on Fridays and give up a personal vice or perform additional acts of charity or faith.

The ashes traditionally come from palms used the previous Palm Sunday. On that Sunday before Easter, people use palms in church as a symbol of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem in the days before his Last Supper. People will place the palms in their home for the rest of the year and then take the items to the church, where they are burned for the ashes.

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