If you are not catholic or a christian and had never heard of Lent, now it's your time to learn and experience.
Lent is a 40 day period before Easter that commemorates the time Jesus spent in the wilderness. It begins with Ash Wednesday and ends at sundown on Holy Thursday. (The Thursday before Easter)
Yet the forty-days idea was not set in stone. Pope Gregory I (d. 604) spoke of a thirty-six day fast, perhaps roughly equating to a 10% tithe of the 365 days in the year. Yet the forty-day idea won out a century later. In a church document approved by the French king (known as the Frankish king) called the Capitulary of the Church of Toulon and written in 714, the days of the fast were determined to be forty. And a liturgical work from Amaury from the early 800s mentions a forty-day fast
Traditionally, Lent is marked by penitential prayer, fasting, and alms giving. Some churches especially in the Orthodox tradition, still observe a rigid schedule of fasting on certain days during Lent, especially the giving up of meat, alcohol, sweets, and other types of food.
A video by The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams provides a brief reflections on Lent
Other traditions do not place as great an emphasis on fasting, but focus on charitable deeds, especially helping those in physical need with food and clothing, or simply the giving of money to charities. Most Christian churches that observe Lent at all focus on it as a time of prayer, especially penance, repenting for failures and sin as a way to focus on the need for God’s grace. It is really a preparation to celebrate God’s marvelous redemption at Easter, and the resurrected life that we live, and hope for, as Christians.
Also in the early church this was a time of preparation for those about to be baptized. Today it is more often regarded as a season of soul searching and repentance for all Christians when we prepare for the joy and celebration of Easter by giving ourselves an annual spiritual check up.