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Ash Wednesday

Teaches the children how the name Ash Wednesday came about, and to explore its significance.

by Ronni Lamont

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To teach the children how the name Ash Wednesday came about, and to explore its significance.

Preparation and materials

  • Ash - any sort of finely powdered ash. Strictly speaking this should be from the Palm crosses from the previous year. A local church may let you have some, or contact a specialist religious supplier. Otherwise, you could make ash in a controlled fire - say in a waste bin, outside. Use old paper and then pulverize the ashes. Then make a paste from the ash (using olive oil, not water). It can be very runny, like powder paint. You need only a very small amount.
  • A palm cross - again, perhaps ask your local church.
  • A bag of sugar and a lemon.


  1. Produce the sugar and lemon and ask what favourite food these traditionally go on - pancakes. When do we eat pancakes? Shrove Tuesday. Why is it called Shrove Tuesday? Because people used to go to church on that day to be 'shriven'. This old word means that everyone had to confess all the things that they knew they had done wrong. The priest then blessed them, they went home, and made pancakes to use up the eggs in the house, ready for …

  2. Ash Wednesday, the day after Shrove Tuesday. Ask if anyone knows why it's called that. Produce the ash, and explain that Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent - six weeks of preparing for Easter. Lent is a fast - a time of eating less well, and praying more. It's also a time of thinking about all the things that human beings get wrong. People still go to church on Ash Wednesday to be 'ashed'. Explain that this is an ancient custom, a way of 'acting out' remembrance of the fact that we do wrong things.

  3. Ask a child (whose religious tradition is compatible with what is to come - and with no fringe!) to come up to the front. Dip your thumb into the ash solution and make the sign of the cross on his or her forehead. The words to accompany this action, which you can choose whether or not to use, are:

    Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.

    If you do use the words, make sure that you pick the sort of child who isn't going to be fazed by these weird words! Let everyone have a look at the child's ash mark as he or she returns to his or her place.

Time for reflection

In a few moments of silence, ask the children to think about things they do that they know are wrong. Ask all the children to say 'I'm sorry' out loud, together, after an appropriate thought from you:

For all the things that I do that I know I shouldn't,
I'm sorry.


'Go tell it on the mountain' (Come and Praise, 24)

Publication date: February 2002   (Vol.4 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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