Happy Halloween and Reformation Day

An indulgence was literally a “Get out of Purgatory Card” sold by the Catholic Church to raise money.  Originally, indulgences were used in the early church where they were granted for the remission of sins to church martyrs or those imprisoned for their faith.  By Martin Luther’s time in the early 1500s, with the invention of moveable metal type, indulgence blanks were being printed by the thousands and had become readily available to anyone who could afford them.

Martin Luther did not want to split up the church, but the sale of indulgences to allow people to shorten their time in Purgatory went against his basic understanding of scripture and personal salvation.

Martin Luther believed Ephesians 2:8  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”  (NIV)  We could not through our works find our way into salvation and heaven.  We could not buy our way into salvation and heaven.  Salvation and eternal life were granted to us as a gift from God, and could not be earned. 

Martin Luther wrote this issue, along with 94 other issues he felt should be discussed and posted the paper on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517.  Thanks to the printing press the 95 theses (grievances) were soon spread through Europe.

The Pope and the church were furious, but the economy in northern Europe was growing.  The German Princes were becoming upset because they saw vast portions of their wealth being carried off to Rome and saw this as an opportunity to stop the wealth drain.  The German Princes backed Martin Luther and his new approach to Christianity. By protecting him from wrath of the Catholic Church the German Princes encouraging the growth of the Protestant Reformation.

Halloween has been a religious festival since before recorded history dating back to a Gaelic festival held at the end of the harvest season.  The celebration, originally thought to be Samhain, is held midway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. 

The early Christian church changed the pagan celebration into a three-day festival starting with All Saints’ Eve (October 31), All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2) adapted the pagan celebration.

It was believed on the night of October 31, the veil separating the current world from the spirit world thinned allowing a transfer from one to the other.  Aos Si, spirits or fairies, possibly representing gods from the old religion passed through the opening.  The Aos Si required offerings of food and drink or they would infect the people and livestock and they would not survive the winter.  Also the souls of the dead would return for a last visit to their homes and they too required hospitality. 

Over the centuries, the evening activities progressed from food and drink offered to past family members or spirits and fairies, to dressing up in costumes and traveling from house to house for food and gifts, and eventually carrying lights for warding off evil spirits.  Todays Halloween includes haunted houses with seas of trick or treating children flowing from house to house for pieces of candy.

An entire economy has developed around the celebration of Halloween. Everyone knows a person who either holds or has been invited to a Halloween Costume party making the day one of the most commercially lucrative seasons for the retail industry with the sale of costumes and decorations.  The candy industry has completely revised their marketing and production systems to make those miniature candy bars to hand out to costumed trick or treaters.

The religious festival celebrating the end of the growing season and preparation for winter transformed into an evening before the day to honor all saints, known and unknown.  Today Halloween is a commercial force that has come a long way in the last 2500-3000 years.

Happy Halloween and Reformation Day.  Thank you for reading the blog and please leave a comment.