WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Today is Ash Wednesday. It's the start of the holiest period of the Christian calendar leading up to Easter.
And it's why you might see some people walking around with black smudges on their foreheads.
Hundreds of people lined up for what is called the imposition of the ashes today at St. Mary Catholic Church in Wilmington. Ministers used black ashes to mark a cross on the foreheads of participants. This tradition is meant to serve as a reminder of mortality and humility.
"We should repent from the things that we're doing wrong or failing to do good things and to follow the gospel more faithfully," Fr. Bob Kus said.
Giving up an item you enjoy for Lent gives some more time to focus on their faith.
"I'm gonna try very hard to give up wine," Jeannette Trygar said.
Trygar joins many giving up alcohol for 40 days. Candy and junk food are also popular vices dropped for lent.
"I know it's a time of discipline and self denial, and I really, firmly believe that," Trygar said.
But it's not all about giving something up.
"Other people do something special like pray more often or come to church more often or give money to the poor," Fr. Bob said.
The number 40 is significant for many reasons in Christianity, , including the 40 days Jesus spent fasting and praying in the wilderness.