Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, is five weeks away. If that seems late compared with last year, you're right. Ash Wednesday 2014 falls 20 days later than Ash Wednesday 2013 did. Last year, Easter was on the early side, but this year, it's only a few day short of the latest it could be--and that means Ash Wednesday will be, too.
Two factors determine the date of Ash Wednesday. The first is the date of Easter. (See How Is the Date of Ash Wednesday Calculated? to learn the exact relationship between the date of Ash Wednesday and the date of Easter.) The second is the length of Lent. While Lent is 40 days, Sundays are not included in the count. (See How Are the 40 Days of Lent Calculated? for more information.) Since six Sundays fall within the 40 days of Lent, Ash Wednesday falls 46 days before Easter every year.
You can find the date of Ash Wednesday for this and future years in When Is Ash Wednesday?
(Catholics pray during an Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle, Washington, D.C., February 17, 2010. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)