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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — With Fat Tuesday over, that means the beginning of Lent for Christians around the world. And it all starts today with Ash Wednesday.

For Christians, today starts the 40 days of the Lenten season. Lent is the lead-up to Easter. It recalls Jesus’ 40-day fast in the wilderness.

For Catholics, it is a season of penance, reflection and fasting that prepares them for Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Today at St. Mary Catholic Church in Wilmington, as well as churches around the world, worshipers received a cross of ashes on their forehead.

“It’s sort of like a spiritual renewal,” Fr. Bob Kus said. “What we do is we put a little ashes on the forehead and say, ‘Repent and be faithful to the gospel,’ and then during lent people do something special.”

Many give up things for lent, like junk food or chocolate. It is also encouraged to make a commitment during the 40 days, like reading the gospel or donating to charity.

The ashes are theoretically made from palms from last year’s Palm Sunday celebration. Fr. Bob says St. Mary’s buys its ashes rather than preparing their own because the palm ashes are too rough on skin.

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