This is now known as a forty day annual festival which culminates on Easter Sunday. In the fourth century the length of this period was said to be 36 days, moving to 40 in the seventh century to correspond to and acknowledge Christ’s suffering of 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness when His faith was tested and He was tempted by the Devil. During this period Christians fast just as Christ did in the wilderness. Christ held to His faith in the Resurrection so demonstrating the strength of faith.
The word Lent is derived from the word ‘Lenct’ which was the Saxon word for ‘Spring’ with Marchbeing a month associated with rebirth in nature after the bleakness of winter, hence fasting was also used by communities in Saxon times as a way of making the winter stores of food last within agricultural communities. ‘Lencten monath’ was the name given by the Saxons to this month as day-by-day the length of the day increased. The fast from Ash Wednesday to Easter runs through the majority of this month hence this period became referred to as ‘Lencten-faesten’ or ‘Lent’.
In many parts of rural England (UK) the practice of clearing the house of food stuffs resulted in many customs being developed (See Mystical WWW Easter : Pancake Day). Any remaining meat was eaten in the form of a steak or ‘collop’ and so the day preceding Shrove Tuesday became known as ‘Collop Monday’.