Where Do Churches Get the Ashes for Ash Wednesday?

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On February 26, you might see a few people going about their normal business with black, cross-shaped smudges on their foreheads. That’s because it’s Ash Wednesday, when Christian churches across the world mark the beginning of Lent by anointing each member of the congregation with an ashen cross. Considering that millions of Christians participate in the tradition, those ashes definitely add up.

So where do churches get them? As Reader’s Digest reports, the answer is related to another Christian observance: Palm Sunday. Each year, churches hold a special Mass on the Sunday before Easter to commemorate the day Jesus arrived in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. In the Bible, a crowd of worshippers welcomed him by waving palm fronds as he rode into the city on a donkey—so, on Palm Sunday, churches hand out palm fronds to their members. (The palms, according to TIME, are purchased from suppliers based in locations with tropical or subtropical climates.)

While some people twist their dried palms into the shape of a cross and take them home, most are left in the church and later burned. The ashes from that fire are stored and used on Ash Wednesday the following year.

Unlike the tradition of passing out palm fronds, the practice of blessing churchgoers in ash isn’t directly linked to the Bible. Instead, it’s a symbolic way to remind Christians of their own mortality. When a member of the clergy marks your head in ash, they’ll often say, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” which is what God told Adam when he banished him from the Garden of Eden.

For more on the meaning and history of Ash Wednesday, check out these facts.

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Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

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The Reason Your Dog Follows You Everywhere

Crew, Unsplash
Crew, Unsplash

Depending on your mood, a dog that follows you everywhere can be annoying or adorable. The behavior is also confusing if you're not an expert on pet behavior. So what is it about the canine companions in our lives that makes them stick by our sides at all times?

Most experts agree on a few different reasons why some dogs are clingy around their owners. One is their pack mentality. Dogs may have been domesticated thousands of years ago, but they still consider themselves to be part of a group like their wild ancestors. When there are no other dogs around, their human family becomes their pack. According to Reader's Digest, this genetic instinct is also what motivates dogs to watch you closely and seek out your physical touch.

The second reason for the behavior has to do with the bond between you and your pet. As veterinarian Dr. Rachel Barrack told the American Kennel Club, puppies as old as 6 months can imprint on their human owners like they would their own mothers. Even older dogs will bond with the humans in their lives who show them care and affection. In these cases, a dog will shadow its owner because it sees them as an object of trust and security.

The last possible explanation for why your dog follows you has more to do with your treatment of them than their natural instincts. A popular training tactic is positive reinforcement—i.e. rewarding a dog with treats, pets, and praise when they perform positive behaviors. The point is to help your dog associate good behaviors with rewards, but after a while, they may start to associate your presence with rewards as well. That means if your dog is following you, they may be looking for treats or attention.

A clingy dog may be annoying, but it usually isn't a sign of a larger problem. If anything, it means your dog sees you in a positive light. So enjoy the extra companionship, and don't be afraid to close the door behind when you need some alone time.