In the Roman Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. Ash Wednesday originated in the 900s and the official name is Day of Ashes. It is called Ash Wednesday because the saints have their foreheads marked with ashes in the shape of a cross on Wednesday (40 before Good Friday).
According to the Bible a mark on the forehead is a symbol of a person's ownership. When one has their foreheads marked with the sign of a cross it symbolizes that the person belongs to Jesus Christ. A friend of mine told me it is, “to remind us that we came from ashes and will return to ashes (death).” In addition to ashes, Ash Wednesday is also a day of fasting.
Lent is based on the passage from Matthew 9:15 (KJV) that says:
“And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.”Some sources say the Apostles fasted as they mourned the death of Jesus. The forty day fast preceding Easter, begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Good Friday continues to be practiced today. This fast has morphed into giving up meat instead of an actually fast for most people. Some people give up other items, such as TV, video games, bread, beer, etc. Ultimately, the focus of the fast should be to focus on Christ and his sacrifice on the cross.
I don’t believe this a requirement, but is a great liturgical practice for focusing on Christ.
That is what I came up with. If you have any more information, please let me know.