Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful as a sign of repentance.You may have heard the saying "dust to dust, ashes to ashes". This is taken from the words spoken during the placing of the ashes. The actual words spoken are "Remember, O man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return." And I like the Latin translation: "Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris."
Today is a day to look at our lives, remember that we are merely mortal, and take time to realize our greater purpose in life. In the Christan calendar, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, a 40 day period of prayer and fasting leading up to Easter.