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Let’s celebrate Reformation Day the right way!

Reformation Day

This day is known for its ghouls and goblins, witches and vampires, costumes and candy. It’s Halloween, the day we put on masks and trick-or-treat throughout our neighborhoods. Though we have modernized the holiday itself, its roots are deep throughout history and have a significant impact on the protestant churches we attend today.

A Brief History of Halloween

Halloween, often thought of as a modern holiday, has its origins in ancient Celtic festivals, particularly Samhain, which was celebrated in Ireland, Scotland, and parts of modern-day England. Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, a time when the boundary between the living and the dead was believed to blur. People lit bonfires and wore costumes to ward off evil spirits. With the spread of Christianity into Celtic regions, these pagan traditions became intertwined with Christian practices.

In the 8th century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as All Saints’ Day (or All Hallows’ Day), a Christian holiday to honor all saints and martyrs. The evening before this day, October 31, came to be known as All Hallows’ Eve, which eventually evolved into Halloween. The Church sought to Christianize pagan traditions, encouraging people to replace their pagan rituals with the celebration of saints.

Halloween by any other name: All Hallows Eve

All Hallows Eve became the preparation night for the following day: All Saints Day. It was the day separated to celebrate the saints of the church. Within the Catholic church, this meant the saints who’d attained sainthood through their five-step process and were venerated as set apart for the church. Yet, this understanding of saints is misguided biblically, since all are considered saints who have been bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ.

As the citizens of the town would prepare for the hallowed day approaching on November 1st, October 31st became known as “All Hallows Eve” a night to prepare to celebrate the holy ones. We should recognize the word “Hallowed” too, since it was uttered in the teaching of Jesus on the Lord’s Prayer. It is the Lord’s name that is to be “hallowed” in our prayers and his people are set apart as holy, or “hallowed.” This is part of the reasoning that Martin Luther used the Wittenberg Castle/Church to post his 95 Theses on October 31, 1517 – because the townspeople would be darkening the doors of that church the following day on November 1 as they celebrated All Saints Day.

Let’s celebrate Reformation Day today!

Martin Luther, whether intentionally or not, sparked a revolution of sorts by stamping his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle. The crux of his argument was fundamental to what became the protestant reformation and focused on two main questions: “Who has the authority in religious matters, Scripture or the Pope?” And, “How is salvation given to sinners?” Each of these questions became the demarcation line between Catholic and protestant thought.

These two questions are fundamental to growing as Christians and living as Saints in this world. If we believe the Word of God to be authoritative in our daily lives, that it holds the truth of God and reveals the character of God – namely His ultimate revelation Jesus Christ – then we must submit ourselves to its authority. And, since we believe it to be the ultimate authority then we trust that it reveals God’s plan of salvation, based on his grace and our justification through faith (Rom. 3:28). This justification by faith was the key doctrine by which Martine Luther declared that the church will stand or fall.

This alone is enough reason to keep the right perspective on October 31st and the significance it holds for us. We can celebrate Halloween and enjoy the evening with our kids as they trick-or-treat for more candy than a human should ever eat. But as we do, let’s remember the spiritual significance of this day, and celebrate the fact that we are justified by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, because the Bible, our authority tells us so. Having this faith makes us “hallowed” is God’s sight.