When is Ash Wednesday 2018 and what have Mardi Gras, Pancake Day and Rio Carnival got in common?
On the face of it flipping a pan full of eggs and milk and semi-naked woman in preposterous costumes dancing in Brazil have little in common.
The world famous Rio Carnival, which attracts millions of revellers to dance and cavort on the streets, is one of many across the globe leading into the Lenten season.
Other huge parades and celebrations take place throughout the rest of Brazil and most of South America, along with France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and many US cities.
What they all have in common is they have to finish on Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) – also known as Shrove Tuesday.
When is Ash Wednesday?
The actual date is determined by the Lunar calendar, which is why it changes on every year.
And the day after Mardi Gras is Ash Wednesday – the first day of Lent, when many Christians fast for about six weeks leading up to Easter.
This year Mardi Gras falls on Tuesday 13 February and Ash Wednesday on the 14 February.
What is Ash Wednesday?
Held the day after Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday is considered a day to cleanse the soul before Lent begins.
Ashes are used to mark a cross on the foreheads of churchgoers to symbolise repentance for sin.
Palm crosses from the last Palm Sunday are burned and the ash is used to mark parishioners. It is also said to be a reminder that death comes to everyone.
Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, comes from the practice of eating up all the rich fatty foods before fasting.
Our tradition of eating pancakes derives from the same thing, while the name Shrove Tuesday comes from shrive, meaning absolution for sins by doing penance.
Popular Mardi Gras traditions include vibrant masks and costumes, parades, dancing debauchery and more.
This may or may not be more fun than flipping pancakes.
An estimated 2 million people head to Rio every year for the carnival.
Brazil welcomes 70 per cent of its tourists during the Mardis Gras season.