The New Student's Reference Work/Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday, the first day in Lent; so called from the old church custom of sprinkling ashes on the head as a sign of penitence. The ashes are those of the palms consecrated on Palm Sunday. This custom was probably established by Gregory the Great (590–604). It is observed by the Roman Catholic church. The day, but not the ceremony, is observed in the Church of England.