NEW YORK (WABC) – Christians celebrate Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent.

It is a 40-day period of prayer, self-sacrifice and charity in preparation for Holy Week and Easter.

The Cathedral of St. John the Theologian in Manhattan will be one of many places to mark the day with private services.

Parishioners should check the schedule of services or the Liturgy of the Word in their local parishes.

The ashes are made from the burnt remains of palm leaves from last year’s Palm Sunday. They are placed on the parishioner’s forehead in the sign of the cross to symbolize that God created everyone from dust and at the end of life everyone will return to dust.

Catholics then wear the ashes for the rest of the day as a sign of penance for their sins.

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