Tomorrow, October 31 is the second largest commercial holiday in the United States, second only to Christmas. Where did this holiday originate? The Celts perhaps 2000 years before Christ, celebrated Samhain on November 1 as their New Year’s day, end of harvest, and beginning of the dark time of the year. It was considered a “thin place” or time when the boundary between the seen and unseen could be crossed. The ghosts of dead people could visit the living. Large bonfires were built and sacrifices offered to appease these spirits. By 43 CE Romans had overtaken the British Isles but they too had celebrations that became incorporated with the Samhain celebration of the Celts. Pomona, of the Romans, celebrated the passing of the dead. The symbol of the goddess Pomona was the apple (bobbing for apples?). Those two celebrations combined. In 609 CE Pope Boneface IV declared May 19 as the day for the celebration of the lives of martyrs. This date was moved to November 1. By the 9th century All Saints Days was firmly established as November 1. The “eve of All Saints Day” or Halloween was October 31. Costumes were worn in these celebrations to hide from the spirits of the dead who were believed to roam around seeking “treats” or threatening “tricks.”
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the Wittenberg church door calling for public debate. He opposed the belief that the dead could return to life and seek help in their after life. He opposed indulgences as acts of good deeds to help the dead spend fewer years in purgatory. He opposed the authority of the Pope in selling indulgences. We looked this week at “Grace alone.” We are saved by God’s grace because he is good not because we become good. “Faith alone” is our avenue of relating to God directly and not having to go through in-between places or saints. “Word alone,” scripture, is the ultimate authority and not councils and traditions that have contradicted each other. And ultimately “Christ alone” for salvation as there is no other name whereby we must be saved. The newly invented printing press spread Luther’s challenges and so the Protestant Reformation is dated to October 31, 1517.
As Christians we do not believe we need to wear costumes to hide from evil. We do not believe deceased ancestors return to play tricks on us. We do believe evil was defeated on the cross. And we certainly believe in welcoming the children in our neighborhood and getting to know people. We need not fear for we know Christ is alive and that is not a trick. It is a treat! Blessings.