How to Burn Paper to Make Ashes

Please note this needs to be done by adults – it is not suitable for children due to burning hazards.

Traditionally, ashes for Ash Wednesday were made by burning the palm crosses which we received on the previous year’s Palm Sunday.
Modern palm crosses are non-inflammable for health and safety reasons, so this is no longer possible.

Burning paper can create ashes suitable for use.
This will produce a fine grey ash.

Tear a clean piece of white paper into strips that fit completely in a heatproof container, such as a stainless steel bowl or cast iron pan.
This ensures the ashes stay in the container and reduces the risk of burning paper overhanging the container dropping onto a flammable surface.

Place the heatproof container outdoors on a sturdy surface away from overhanging branches or shrubs.
Alternatively, if no outdoor area is available, place the container in the kitchen sink.
Place the container on a trivet to prevent damage to the sink.

Light one strip of paper and place it carefully in the heatproof container.
Don’t place the extinguished match in the container as it may not burn, and you’ll only need to remove it later.

Burn the strip completely before adding another strip.
This keeps the fire from becoming too large, particularly if doing this in the kitchen sink.
Keep adding paper until it is all burnt.

Allow to cool, and remove any unburned paper pieces.
Use your fingers to crush the burnt paper into fine ash.

You will need to add a little oil to make a paste so the ash cross will stay on your forehead.

Alternatively, if you do not wish to make ash, some olive oil or cooking oil will be just as effective for the Ash Wednesday service.

St Michael and All Angels Church
Flower Lane
Mill Hill
London NW7 2JA

T: 020 8959 1449

Hartley Hall enquiries by email only to

Registered Charity Number 1168446

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