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 Approximately 250 million Christians in America will be observing Lent this spring, according to the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA). Lent, which runs from March through much of April, takes place during the 40 days before Easter.

If you’ve heard coworkers, neighbors and friends allude to “what they’re giving up for Lent,” you may have wondered what this annual observance is all about.

To help make things more clear, the NCEA is offering some background information on why Christians celebrate Lent:

• Prayer: “While Christians should pray daily, Lent serves as a time to focus our prayer or extend our time in prayer,” says Brother Robert Bimonte at NCEA. “Reflecting on how well we are living our lives is essential.”

• Fasting: Lent is a time to simplify our lives by giving up what we do not really need. By fasting, Christians also repent for mistakes.

• Charity: Helping others by sharing our “time, talent and treasure,” is part of living the Christian message. Many people renew that commitment during Lent by volunteering and donating to charitable causes.

“Above all, Lent is used as a time to reflect, renew and reach out,” says Bimonte.

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