NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Christians across the world spent the day observing Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent.

Lent is a 40-day period of prayer, penance and sacrifice in preparation for the celebration of Easter.

Worshipers mark the start of the Season of Lent with ashes — a symbol of penance made sacramental by the blessing of the church.

As CBS2’s Magdalena Doris reported, ashes were smudged on the many faithful who attended mass in the Belmont section of the Bronx Wednesday. Molly Subranni, 96, still walks to church and is steady in her faith.

“I’m going to be 97 years old, so this is not easy for me I do it for penance I do it for god, god was good to me all my life.”

In Ridgewood, New Jersey some believers didn’t even have to leave the driver’s seat to receive ashes. The Episcopal Diocese is offering the symbol of faith in an express fashion at 30 locations throughout the state.

“In this world where everybody is so rushed it gave you a chance to stop in your busy day and reflect for a moment and it was convenient and helps you to remember what’s important today,” said Carol Mancuso after receiving her drive-thru ashes.

This year Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day fall on the same day for the first time since 1945.

Valentine’s Day has its origins as a Christian feast day celebrating St. Valentine, but for centuries has been more of a time to give flowers and chocolate.

During the Lenten season, many choose to deny themselves of something, a reminder of their commitment to what they believe.

“Usually I give up sweets or soda,” one man said.

“I usually give up little things like cheese, that I like the most,” another said.

For those not sure how to take part in both, Timothy Cardinal Dolan said there’s no reason the holidays cannot coexist because Ash Wednesday is all about love.

“Why don’t we say a prayer for one another? Why don’t we do an act of charity for somebody else?” Dolan said.

After observing Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dolan joined Franciscan sisters at Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Bronx, handing food to those in need, marking a new season of giving, and prayer.

“It almost purifies and enhances the prayer and the penance that we intensify during Lent, it makes it more sincere,” Dolan said.

Meanwhile, all kidding aside, Easter Sunday falls on April Fools Day this year.


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