Even if they're still stuffed from Fat Tuesday feasting and tired out from Mardi Gras festivities, it's time for many Christians around the world to turn their attention to Lent, a much more solemn (and sober) religious season observed in the weeks leading up to Easter.
Wondering why you keep passing people on the street with a black cross on their foreheads? Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten season for many Christians. The ashes, which are made by burning the palms that were distributed the previous year on Palm Sunday, are blessed and serve as a symbol of humility and a call to repentance.
Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for the Easter season and resurrection of Jesus by observing a period of fasting and moderation (although specific requirements can vary based on the denomination). For many, it's also a time of self-sacrifice. You may know people who "give up" things like chocolate, Facebook, or even (gasp!) stop drinking coffee during Lent.