(CNN) -- Here's a look at what you need to know about Lent, a season of prayer and penance in the Christian church and a period of preparation for the Easter season.
Facts: March 5, 2014 - Ash Wednesday and first day of Lent. Lent ends on April 19.
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.
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.