Lent is the season of forty days prior to Easter, which begins today, on Ash Wednesday. Lent has been observed since apostolic times as a period of reflection and penitence for those who would undergo baptism on Easter, and a time for all sinners to repent.
Lent is also closely associated with the transition from winter to spring. The word “Lent” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for springtime, Lencten, which describes the lengthening of days after the winter solstice.
Ash Wednesday itself is named for the devotional practice of having ashes placed on our foreheads, which originated in imitation of the sackcloth and ashes worn by public penitents. It is meant to call to mind the inevitability of our death — a sobering start to the season of Lent.