Friday, October 30, 2009

What is October 31st, really?

Is it:

a.) a fun-filled night in the US that originated from Druid superstitions and beliefs?
b.) the day before All Saint's Day, a day to celebrate the Saints who gave their lives in service to God?
c.) the day Martin Luther nailed his "95 Theses" to the Castle Church door, thus beginning the Reformation?

Well, actually it is all three. Did you know....

October 31st is the last day of the Celtic calendar and is known as Samhain, a pagan holiday celebrating the dead, and steeped in superstition. The ancient culture thought the dead souls roamed the villages at night. Gifts and treats were left out on Samhain to pacify the evil spirits. In addition, faces were carved into turnips to fool the roaming souls into thinking a spirit was already occupying that space and therefore protecting the house from any evil spirits.(Hence, the customs of trick or treating and jack-o-lanterns evolved.)

Later, the Catholic church set aside November 1 (the day after Samhain, October 31st) as All Saints Day. This is a day of remembrance of the men and women who lived their lives in service to God. November 1st was selected as a means to turn a pagan ritual into a Christian holiday in hopes of converting pagans and helping those who were newly converted.

Then in the early 1500's, after years of study, prayer, and searching the Scriptures, Martin Luther realized that some of the teachings and practices of the Catholic didn't follow Biblical teachings. He wrote his findings out (all 95 of them) and nailed them to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. In that day, if someone wanted to debate an issue, they would post their debate on the door of the church. (It was like a message board for the townspeople.) He intentionally selected October 31, because he knew most of the people would be attending church services for All Saint's Day the following day. By challenging the practices of the Church, Luther was hoping for change within the church. However, his actions instead infuriated the church leaders and he was threatened with banishment and forced to stand trial. At the trial, he was asked to retract his findings. He replied by saying, ' Unless I can be convinced by the clear teachings of the Bible that I am wrong, I cannot and will not retract what I have written." Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen."

Because of Luther's standing up for the teachings of Scripture, his standing up to the false teachings of the Church, and the Church refusing to change their wrong practices, others began questioning the Church and examining the Scriptures themselves. This was the beginning of the Protestant Reformation (named for those who protested the teachings of the Catholic church).

So whether you choose to celebrate today by going trick or treating, enjoying a parade, or attending a party--if you are Christ-follower--take some time today to reflect on the impact of Martin Luther's life. As a Christian, this day should be more than just dressing the kids up and getting candy to eat. It should be a day of thanksgiving for the stand taken for religious freedom and Truth almost 500 years ago. Take some time today to think about it!


  1. Well written and educational!

  2. Great article, Shannon. I didn't know about the Martin Luther tie to October 31st. My brother would love this post. Keep on educating us!