All Hallow's Eve and Reformation Day

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Martin Luther nailing the document to the church door on All Hallows Eve
All Hallow's Eve and Reformation Day
Birth of the Reformation
Martin Luther nailing his Theses to the Church Door

Picture courtesy of Timetoast

Halloween (meaning Hallow or holy and Eve as in night before), as it has come to be called, is a strange mix of Christian and Pagan observances. This holiday, properly understood and celebrated with all of its fun trappings, can be a way for us to deepen our understanding of faith.

The Christian festival began in the late 3rd Century, in the East, as 'a feast in honour of the martyrs of the whole world' and is celebrated tomorrow as All Saints Day and the next day as All Souls Day. Today properly being a prayer vigil for the commemoration ahead. It is about honouring the memories of those in our families who we know have died in the faith and who we know we will see again one day. I believe having a day to specifically honour their memory is a good thing.

The pagan connection was that the pagan festival of Samhein celebrated by the Celts was on this day. They believed the souls of the dead returned this night to visit the living. This was the night the souls of those who had died during the previous year, passed into the otherworld. In Scotland, bonfires were lit on the hilltops and the people disguised themselves as this was the last chance for spirits harbouring a grudge to get revenge before leaving. But they couldn't get revenge if they couldn't find you. Anyway, with so many accepting the Christian faith, the early church changed the date of All Hallows Eve (which actually pre-dated the pagan festival) to fit in with the culture to which they were bringing the Gospel.

Christians debate whether or not we should participate in Halloween. The truth is that most of the fun trappings of Halloween have their roots in Christianity, even trick and treating, which came from Europe, has its roots in children going door to door, begging 'Soul Cakes' in return for them praying for the souls of those departed that year from the family. However, it has become a very secular holiday, with worrying aspects. Ignoring Halloween, or celebrating it with believers only, is not exactly an evangelical approach. Aren't we supposed to 'become all things to all men so that by all possible means we might save some?' (1 Corinthians 9:22) So meet and greet your neighbours, give out candy, and maybe small tracts with a bible promise on to the children and tell them about Jesus - that this is really a celebration of those who died and are in heaven.

Reformation Day

This day in 1517, German Augustinian monk Martin Luther nailed to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, a list of 95 theological points he wished to debate ... and touched off the Protestant Reformation! As the doors of churches were often utilized for posting public notices, Luther, having written his ninety-five theses, placed them on the All Saints (or Castle) Church doors on All Hallows Eve, where many who would attend the following All Saints Day observance would read it. But, it was the recent invention of the printing press that allowed Luther's theological points to be circulated throughout Europe. Martin Luther as such, is responsible for the Protestant Church. He is truly an example of using All Hallows Eve to make a proclamation for Christ.

I choose today to spread the vigil prayers throughout the day. All day, people may be doing Halloween activities: preparing for parties, getting the kids costumes ready to go trick or treating, decorating the house, or maybe just shopping for treats for the children who will come knocking on the door. In the midst of all your Halloween activity, pause and remember that this is really about tomorrow's remembrance of Christians who have passed on to their reward, that crowd of witnesses ever watching us!