Lent Fast Facts

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 13: A girl makes an offering on Ash Wednesday at St. Patrick's Cathedral on February 13, 2013 in New York City. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a 40-day period of pray and fasting for many Christians.

(CNN)Here's a look at Lent, a season of prayer and penance in the Christian church and a period of preparation for the Easter season.

March 1-April 15, 2017-
Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent.
The word Lent comes from the word Old English word lencten, meaning spring.
    In the Western church, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, six and a half weeks before Easter, and ends at midnight on Easter Saturday.
    In the Eastern Church, Lent begins on the Monday of the seventh week before Easter and ends on the Friday nine days before Easter.
    Fasting and prayer are done in remembrance and reflection of Jesus Christ's fasting in the wilderness.
    Lent lasts 40 days. Sundays are not counted.
    The observance of Lent dates back to the 4th century.
    5th-9th centuries - Strict fasting during Lent Is customary. Meat and fish are forbidden, but one meal a day is allowed.
    Fasting still continues but is less strict now in the Western churches.
    Many people give up something during Lent, such as food or TV or other pleasurable activities.
    Taking up acts of charity is another custom during Lent.