Mardi Gras falls on Tuesday, March 5 this year. It historically represents a time to overindulge before a time of fasting and prayer — which begins on Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday, on March 6 this year, represents the first day of the Lent season. It’s primarily celebrated by Catholics, though other Christian faiths observe the day as well.

5 things to know about Mardi Gras

The ashes represent the dust from which Christians believe humans were created.

On Ash Wednesday, many Christians attend church services and receive ashes on their head, which symbolizes the dust from which Christians believe humans were created.

Many religious leaders use the phrase, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” when administering the ashes.

The ashes used are typically from the previous year’s Lent season.

Every year on Palm Sunday, many churches burn palm leaves. They use the ashes from the leaves in the following year’s Ash Wednesday service.

Lent lasts roughly 40 days each year.

The weeks leading up to Easter allow Christians to prepare for the Easter holiday, during which Christians believe Jesus Christ died and was resurrected.

Many Christians fast throughout Lent.

The rules for Christians observing Lent vary throughout time, location, denomination and church. However, one of the most common rules is that Christians cannot eat meat on certain days of Lent — often on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent — and some Christians fast during the season, eating one meal a day in the evening.

Lent has been around since the earliest known records of Christianity.

Some reports say Lent dates back to even earlier than A.D. 203, when a saint wrote to the then-pope about fasting during the Easter season. The seasonal observance didn’t become regularly observed until after Christianity was legalized in A.D. 313.