Ash Wednesday marks beginning of Lenten season

(CNN) - Today is Ash Wednesday and the first day of Lent for many Christian churches in the Western world.

It's a season of prayer and penance -- and a period of preparation for the Easter season. Lent lasts six and a half weeks, ending on Easter. Observances of Lent date back to the Fourth Century.

Christian churches in the Eastern world follow a different timetable for Lent.


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