A year ago Ash Wednesday landed on February 10th, but in 2017, it won't be until March 1. For Catholics, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. This religious tradition is a 40-day observance in the liturgical calendar which is characterized by prayer, fasting and/or abstinence.
This year the beginning of Lent is on Wednesday, March 1 and will end on Thursday, April 13. It runs for about six weeks and leads up to Easter. The symbolism behind this observation are the days that led up to Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection when Christ spent 40 days and nights in the desert. In reality, it is a total of 46 days if the six Sunday's are included, but since they are not, it's only 40 because there's no obligation to fast on the holy days.
During this time period, observers give up an action or something that they consider a vice. This will help them bring them closer to God and give them extra time to focus on charitable causes. During this period abstinence from all animal products including, fish, eggs and milk sourced from animals is practice.
In the Western Catholic Church, fish and dairy product are not included and is distinguished from fasting. This only happens during the day and on Ash Wednesday as well as every Friday. With Lent officially starting today, what are you giving up for this period?