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Display featuring a crown of thorns and cross with purple cloth heralds the beginning of Lent. File photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications.

File photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications

Display featuring a crown of thorns and cross with purple cloth heralds the beginning of Lent.

What is Lent and why does it last forty days?

Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means "spring." The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.

Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others.

Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a "mini-Easter" and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection.

Topic: Lent and Easter

Find devotionals, activities for families, inspiring stories and information about our faith for the observance of the Lenten and Easter seasons. Read More

Lent and Easter quiz graphic. Photoshop illustration by Cindy Caldwell. Photo of Lenten cross and thorns by Kathleen Barry, UMNS. Sunset with cross at Belen Memorial United Methodist Church by Austin Bond Photography.

Lent Quiz: Test your knowledge of the season (2015)

Get a new question daily as we explore traditions and symbols of the season. And share the quiz with others! Read More

Painting by Craig Carlisle. Used by permission.

Lent 101

Find out the basics of Lent from this handy introductory guide. More

Woman sits in park. Photo illustration by Ronny Perry, United Methodist Communications.

40 Days of Lent: Find your own spiritual path

There is no one, right way to observe a holy Lent. These ideas and resources will help you stay on track throughout the season. Read More

Chuck Knows Church: Lent

Video answers your basic questions about the 40 days before Easter. View