Miercoles de Ceniza

Today is Miercoles de Ceniza in Mexico! (Ash Wednesday, for all you who live in gringolandia).

I’m not Catholic, so I don’t know a whole lot about Miercoles de Ceniza. I do know that it marks the beginning of the Cuaresma (Lent), and that today, every school/office building/church in Cancun will have special ceremonies in which a priest will mark a cross of ash on the foreheads of the Catholics. (What would happen if you tried to hold a religious ceremony in an American office building?) It symbolizes the concept that “you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.

It’s days like this when I (almost) wish I were Catholic, because crosses made of ash look pretty cool. (There is always some poor soul whose “cross” looks more like a large dot. Maybe the priest had shaky hands? Large thumbs?)

Mexican Catholics follow a special calendar during the 40 days of Lent, where they can’t eat certain meats on certain days, and other days have special ceremonies and masses. There are also special prayers to be said.

Sometimes, I wish that we had this type of religious unity in the States… that nearly everybody practiced the same religion and held the same beliefs. It’s very calming.

Still, there’s something to be said for a country like the good ole US of A, where different cultures and beliefs provide for fascinating discussion and great diversity. There are pros and cons to both cultures in this aspect, and it’s so cool to find out about our differences and similarities.

**UPDATE: My wise fiance informs me that this ceremony is not held in every school. I had forgotten that my university (which was Catholic) had a chapel on campus. They did have it at my office building, though. My apologies for jumping to conclusions.

5 thoughts on “Miercoles de Ceniza

  1. I know what you mean about the unity. Sometimes, I actually feel a little “left out” from the Lent practices, as I have a lot of Catholic friends. Of course, that’s no one’s fault, and I think everyone has a right to have their own religious belief. But you’re right—it’s hard to feel unity when everyone believes something a little different.

  2. With all the different cultures in the US, things change and not always for the better! You are the lucky one to be living in Mexico.

  3. My hubby and I are both Catholics, and I think it made my Mexican family pretty happy. Truth be told, it made my Canadian/Croation family pretty happy.

    Lent is celebrated the same way back in Canada. We try and follow the calendar as best we can ie) fish on Fridays. We all have to chose one thing to give up for lent ie) alcohol, swearing, deserts, etc… There are not a set of rules, but it’s pretty neat. The masses are great during lent – Palm Sunday, Ash Wednesday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, etc… It’s actually pretty neat.

    Canada is very similar to the US. We are very multicultural, infact I believe Toronto, per capita is the most multicultural in the world. I went to Catholic schools my whole life, even a Catholic University for a year. I had to take courses in World Religions. It was very neat, and definitely can be a “moose on a table” for any conversation.

    Is that you in the pic??!!! Very cool!!

  4. Amy – I know how you feel! I’m a Protestant, and I often feel a bit left out. I’ve had a tough time finding a solid Protestant community here.

    K – I am lucky! It’s pretty nice when everyone believes the same thing. The bad part is that you cannot argue about religion like in the States. Any time I ask a question about the Catholic religion, most people think I’m trying to argue and get stand-offish.

    Lauren – Nice to know it seems to be celebrated the same internationally! In the States, I’d only heard about giving something up for 40 days. I tried to do it with dessert once, and it didn’t go over so well. No, it’s not me! It’s just a pic I found online to show the ash cross.

  5. Very cool- thanks for that explanation. Every ash wed, I would see people in the NYC streets with that marking. At first I thot it was a bizarre cult until I found out it was Catholic. I never got the understanding of what it was supposed to signify.

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