Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of the 2017 Lenten season.
To mark the day, clergy all over the world burn palm from the previous year’s Palm Sunday services to create ash.
This is then rubbed across people’s foreheads in the shape of the cross as they are reminded “For dust you are and to dust you shall return”.
The ceremony is meant to show followers that their lives are short and they must live them to the fullest.
This sees Lent begin and it continues until the Thursday before Easter weekend.
Why is Lent for 40 days and what is its meaning?
The Lent period reflects when Jesus fasted and suffered in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, before he started his ministry.
According to the Bible, he was tempted by Satan during this time, but each time he managed to refuse his temptations.
People follow Jesus’ example and give up vices in a bid to grow closer to God as Easter approaches.
Where does the tradition of fasting come from?
Lent and fasting go hand in hand for many in the Christian church.
Many followers abstain from certain food or temptations, following Jesus’ 40-day fast in the desert in preparation for his public ministry.
Fasting has been practiced for centuries within a number of religions and culture, and is featured within Jewish culture in the Old Testament.
For example, Queen Esther asks the Jewish nation to come together in prayer and fasting, and Christians often combine the two practices nowadays.