In Lent, many Christians commit to fasting, as well as giving up certain luxuries in order to replicate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ's journey into the desert for 40 days. Many Christians also add a Lenten spiritual discipline, such as reading a daily devotional or praying through a Lenten calendar, to draw themselves near to God. The Stations of the Cross, a devotional commemoration of Christ's carrying the Cross and of his execution, are often observed. Many Roman Catholic and some Protestant churches remove flowers from their altars, while crucifixes, religious statues, and other elaborate religious symbols are often veiled in violet fabrics in solemn observance of the event. Throughout Christendom, some adherents mark the season with the traditional abstention from the consumption of meat, most notably among Lutherans, Roman Catholics and Anglicans.
Lent is traditionally described as lasting for 40 days, in commemoration of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, before beginning his public ministry, during which he endured temptation by Satan.
Holy Week and the season of Lent, depending on the Christian denomination and local custom, end with Easter Vigil at sundown on Holy Saturday, on the morning of Easter Sunday, or at the midnight between them.
The English word Lent is a shortened form of the Old English word len(c)ten, meaning "spring season", as its Dutch language cognate lente (Old Dutch lentin) still does today. A dated term in German, lenz (Old High German lenzo), is also related. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, 'the shorter form (? Old Germanic type *laŋgito- , *laŋgiton-) seems to be a derivative of *laŋgo- long ... and may possibly have reference to the lengthening of the days as characterizing the season of spring'. The origin of the -en element is less clear: it may simply be a suffix, or lencten may originally have been a compound of *laŋgo- 'long' and an otherwise little attested word *-tino, meaning 'day'.
In languages spoken where Christianity was earlier established, such as Greek and Latin, the term signifies the period dating from the 40th day before Easter. In modern Greek the term is Σαρακοστή, derived from the earlier Τεσσαρακοστή, meaning "fortieth". The corresponding word in Latin, quadragesima ("fortieth"), is the origin of the term used in Latin-derived languages and in some others: for example, Croatian korizma, French carême, Irish carghas, Italian quaresima, Portuguese quaresma, Albanian kreshma, Romanian păresimi, Spanish cuaresma, Basque garizuma and Welsh c(a)rawys.