Some Christians in the United States attend special Ash Wednesday church services. This includes students who attend Catholic and other church schools. Priests usually place blessed ashes in form of the cross on individuals’ foreheads to remind them of mortality, sorrow for sins, change, and forgiveness.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lenten discipline for observant Christians. It is traditionally a time of fasting and prayer in preparation for receiving or reaffirming baptism at Easter. For some Christians, Lent is a time to think about one’s life choices and mortality, as well as reflect on life directions. It serves as a wakeup call for some Christians. There are also those who chose this time of the year to donate to charities or take part in charity events as a way to get close to God.
Ash Wednesday is an observance and not a federal public holiday in the United States.
The practice of marking foreheads with ashes is common among Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans and Episcopalians in the United States. However some Methodist and Presbyterian churches adopted this custom in recent times, especially around the 1990s. A general article about Ash Wednesday worldwide covers more information about its background and symbols.