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Ash Wednesday, first day of Lent. In the rituals of the Catholic Church, the ashes of the palm fronds from the Palm Sunday of the previous year are consecrated and applied to the churchgoers' foreheads in the form of a cross as a sign of their mortality. France is the original source of the "Artists' Ash Wednesday", which has become popular through television broadcasts with its religious service with readings and musical performances (also in the Michaelerkirche church in Vienna; Innsbruck). Outside of the church, Ash Wednesday is emphasised as the end of the Fasching season: the "Heringsschmaus" (herring and mayonnaise salad) meal, the culinary refinement of which hardly reminds us of its original meaning (fish as a food for the Lenten Fast); "Faschingbegraben", a custom in which the carnival season is symbolically buried or drowned; since 1922 "Geldbeutelwaschen", a custom of washing purses in the old town section of Bregenz (borrowed from southwestern Germany).
Literature: H. M. Wolf, Das Brauchbuch, 1992; H. Gehrer-Schwarz, Gealtbittelwäsch, 1986; K. Gaál, Fasching-Begraben, 1969 (ÖWF documentary).