The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and consists of the 40 days, not including Sundays, that come before Easter. The date for Ash Wednesday varies from year to year, as it is based on the date for Easter which changes each year. The date for Easter is the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox on March 21st. Therefore the date for Easter falls sometime between March 22 and April 25 and the date for Ash Wednesday falls between February 4 and March 10. This year (2013), Ash Wednesday falls on February 13, which is relatively early, and Easter falls on March 31.
The word Lent is derived from the Germanic root for “long” because it is observed in spring when the days get longer. Lent is a time to prepare for the holiest time of the Christian year by fasting, prayer, almsgiving, and other acts of penance. Many people give up something for Lent (a food, watching TV, etc.) or do something to bring them closer to God such as daily devotions or charitable donations. The church color for most of Lent is purple which symbolizes repentance as well as royalty. The word alleluia is not used during Lent and some churches perform a ritual called the burial of the alleluias before Lent begins.