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Christians mark Ash Wednesday around the world

Newt Gingrich giving up dessert, Obamas have "truly thankful hearts."

It’s a good bet giving up alcohol for Lent tops the list of many New Orleans revellers today, Ash Wednesday, as thousands departed the morning after Mardi Gras.

Today marks 40 days before Easter to Christians around the world. Many attended a noon-hour mass to receive ashes on their foreheads, while thousands more shuffled through airport security in New Orleans on their way home.

“It was really great business-wise, but it’s not always easy for us,” tour operator Colin Tyler told the Associated Press in the French Quarter. “Ninety percent of our customers were drunk.”

Pope Benedict XVI said Ash Wednesday is a “day of penitence and fasting,” the AP reported.

He delivered a mass at Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome.

Ash Wednesday wasn’t a big talking point on the political trail. Only Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich declared his Lent intent is deserting dessert for 40 days and nights.

“I am going to give up desserts ... all desserts,” the former House Speaker told MSNBC.

His wife, Callista, chimed in with her sacrifice, too: “I’m giving up my opinion,” she said with a laugh. Gingrich converted to Christianity in 2006.

His opponents, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romeny didn't offer any statements on Lent. They are preparing for a televised debate tonight in Arizona.

President Obama issued a statement on the season, but made no mention of sacrifices.

“Today, Michelle and I honor Ash Wednesday with Christians around the country and across the world,” the statement read, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. “This is at once a solemn and joyous occasion, an opportunity to remember both the depths of sacrifice and the height of redemption. We join millions in entering the Lenten Season with truly thankful hearts, mindful of our faith and our obligations to one another.”

More from GlobalPost: No time for Ash Wednesday, hit the drive-thru

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/120222/christians-mark-ash-wednesday-around-the-world