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A month of holy days and festivals

An NYPD officer receives ashes at St. Patrick's Cathedral after Ash Wednesday Mass, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in the Manhattan borough of New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Worshippers burned aromatic incense sticks beneath red and yellow paper lanterns to celebrate the Lunar New Year outside a famed Taoist temple in Hong Kong.

A holy man lay on the ground before an image of the Hindu goddess of learning during the Magh Mela festival in Prayagraj, India, where ritual bathing in the sacred confluence of rivers can cleanse one’s sins.

And a churchgoer in Mexico City cradled a figure of the Christ child in his arms while waiting in a chapel pew to have it blessed on the Roman Catholic feast of Candlemas, commemorating the presentation of Jesus Christ into the Temple.

February was a month full of religious holidays and festivals for all manner of faith traditions, as captured by AP photographers around the globe.

Many rites, traditions and observances continue to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic, more than a year after the disease was first identified.

A man waits to have his Baby Jesus figure blessed with holy water at Purification of Our Lady of Candlemas Chapel in Mexico City, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. A surge in the COVID-19 pandemic has limited celebrations of the "Dia de la Candelaria" or Candlemas Day this year, with Catholic Masses cancelled and families unable to gather to share the traditional holiday tamales. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

On the Catholic holy day of Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent, everyone from a uniformed New York police officer to Mass attendees at St. Joseph Cathedral in Hyderabad, India, could be seen with not only the traditional cross-shaped smudges on their foreheads but also face masks.

Others donned full-body protective gear, such as the Jewish burial society workers who prepared the corpse of a COVID-19 victim for funeral in Jerusalem, or the Rhode Island field hospital employee who took a moment away from her duties to pray for a sick grandfather far away in Puerto Rico.

Elsewhere the pandemic’s impact manifested itself in absence: In Belgrade, Patriarch Porfirije, the new head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, celebrated the Divine Liturgy surrounded by clergy in an ornate chamber after his predecessor, Patriarch Irinej, died in November of complications from the virus.

These and more are among the AP’s top faith-related images from February.

Worshippers wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus burn joss sticks as they pray at the Wong Tai Sin Temple, in Hong Kong, Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, to celebrate the Lunar New Year which marks the Year of the Ox in the Chinese zodiac. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Workers from "Hevra Kadisha," Israel's official Jewish burial society, get dressed in full protective gear to prepare a body for a funeral procession, at a special morgue for people who died from COVID-19, during a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, in Jerusalem, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Worshippers gather around candles stuck to jars of honey, arranged as a cross, during mass for the 'sanctification of honey' at the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin church in the town of Blagoevgrad, south of the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. Despite the COVID19 pandemic, Bulgarian Orthodox Church marks the day of St. Haralampus, Orthodox patron saint of bee-keepers, by performing a ritual for health and rich harvest. (AP Photo/Valentina Petrova)

Kashmiri Muslims raise their hands and pray as the head priest, unseen, displays a relic believed to be a hair from the beard of the Prophet Mohammad during special prayers on the death anniversary of Abu Bakr Siddiq, the first Caliph of Islam, at Hazratbal Shrine in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Mukhtar Khan)

A Hindu Holy man lies in front of an image of Hindu Goddess of learning Saraswati, at Sangam, the sacred confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, during Magh Mela festival, in Prayagraj, India. Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. Hindus believe that ritual bathing on auspicious days can cleanse them of all sins. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

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