Is Ash Wednesday a Holy Day of Obligation?

Q. Is Ash Wednesday (next Wednesday, February 26) a Holy Day of Obligation?

A. As the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday is most certainly a holy day, when the Church obliges us to fast and to abstain from eating meat and meat products. But it is not a Holy Day of Obligation—that is, as Catholics we’re not obligated by Church law to attend Mass on that day. Even so, the imposition of ashes is so meaningful to so many people that Catholic churches are typically full that day, and even many non-Catholics come to receive the mark on their foreheads.