When is Ash Wednesday 2022, why do the dates change every year and what is the history behind it?

Ash Wednesday follows Pancake Day and the date changes every year - but when is it and what is the history behind it?

Ash Wednesday falls on the first day of Lent, the six-week fasting period, before Easter and is observed by Christians.

Here is everything you need to know about the day.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

When is Ash Wednesday 2022 and why do the dates change?

A worshiper receives the sign of the cross marked in ash on her forehead. (Pic credit: Danny Lawson / PA Wire)

Ash Wednesday, or the first day of Lent, is 40 days long (excluding Sundays) and it is normally on the day after Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday.

Due to the ever changing dates of Pancake Day, Ash Wednesday does change every year too and is always 46 days before Easter. Easter is determined as the Sunday following the first full moon that occurs on or after the March equinox, which is on March 21.

In 2021, Ash Wednesday fell on February 17, this year it falls on March 2.

Why do Christians celebrate Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is a Christian holy day of prayer and fasting. Many Christians attend special church masses and worship services.

The name comes from placing ashes on the foreheads of observants either to the words ‘repent, and believe in the Gospel’ or ‘remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return’.

The ashes are made by burning palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations.

The ashes from this day symbolises death and repentance, which focusses on mortality and wiping away your sins.

The day is thought to have originated from apostolic times, while Lent was practised more regularly after the legalisation of Christianity in 313 A.D.