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For Christians, Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, the 40 days of reflection and renewal before Easter.  A reflective and somber service is held, the central ritual of which is the "imposition of ashes" - the marking of a cross on the forehead with ashes to symbolize our brokenness and mortality. This service starts us on the journey of reflection and repentance throughout the season of Lent toward the forgiveness and new life of Easter.