I remember Lent from my teenage years. My friends at school would talk about what they would "give up for Lent." I didn't know when Lent started, but I knew that it was somehow connected to Easter. At least I knew that my sacrificing could stop after Easter. In recent years, Lent seems to be catching on in wider circles among believers that I know. So, what's it all about?
The word "lent" literally means "lengthening (of days)," and the German word for spring is "Lenz" (from dictionary.com). According to wikipedia.com, the exact origin of the celebration of lent is uncertain, but it seems to date back to around A.D. 325.
Baptisms were often done on Easter, and candidates for baptism were encouraged to fast leading up to the ceremony. This linked the fasting of lent with Easter. People may fast from certain foods, beverages, or practices. The 40 days of lent recall the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert, being tempted by Satan. There are six Sundays in the the season of lent, and fasts may be broken on those Sundays. So the whole season of lent lasts 46 days.
Today lent is celebrated as a time of preparation for Easter. In order to experience Easter fully, you need to have the right frame of mind, body, and spirit. The practices of lent help a Christian better understand the suffering, sacrifice, and compassion of Jesus.
More about preparation next time.