As with almost all "Christian" holidays, Easter has been secularized and commercialized. The dichotomous nature of Easter and its symbols, however, is not necessarily a modern fabrication. The Story of Easter has been held as a holy celebration throughout the past, and still remains sacred today. The events leading up to and including the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ have been remembered annually in a special, collective way by most of the Christian church throughout its history. These special commemorations include Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the forty days of preparation (Lent) for celebrating the death (Good Friday), burial, and resurrection (Easter) of Jesus Christ.
Ash Wednesday begins a forty-day period during which Christians remember their sinfulness, repent, ask God's forgiveness, and recognize that God's forgiveness comes at an infinite price - the death of Christ on the cross on our behalf. It is not meant as a time of false humility or prideful self-sacrifice.
It reminds us that our sin separates us from God, who "demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).
The day before Ash Wednesday is popularly known as Mardi Gras (or "Fat Tuesday"). It has developed into a time of partying and carousing, exemplified by the extravagant celebration in New Orleans. Most people who celebrate Mardi Gras attach little or no religious significance to it. Although it is better known than the following day, Ash Wednesday, it is virtually irrelevant to the spiritual focus of Christian observances.
On Ash Wednesday, the historic churches mark the beginning of this period with a special service explaining the season, call the prople to repentance, signifying repentance with ashes, by which a cross is marked on the forehead of the penitent Christian. Ashes traditionally represent mourning, repentance,