Lent is the period from Ash Wednesday to Easter. It is a time of sacrifice for Jesus. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through self-denial. People who follow Lent generally believe the more they self-sacrifice the greater favor they gain with the Lord, because they are more humble. Jesus spent forty days fasting in the desert. Catholics commemorate this with Lent. This tradition is common to Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Anglicans.
Most of my catholic friends who follow Lent are preparing to feast like pigs, and get soused. Shhhhhh... that part you're not supposed to notice.