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Halloween

I sometimes find it confusing to work out how religious and secular events are connected. Take Halloween for instance, a largely secular event with religious overtones. This is celebrated on 31st October and is the day before the Christian holy day of All Saints 1st November. My trusty Wikipedia tells me that this has its roots in an ancient Celtic festival of Samhain which was celebrated mainly in Ireland and Scotland, as a festival of the dead. The ancient Celts used this day as an opportunity to honour and welcome home departed ancestors, yet also tried to ward off other “harmful spirits” by wearing costumes and masks. Somewhere in the early 8OO’s the church morphed it into a christian holiday (All Saints day) but it continued to have its earlier baggage attached, as evidenced by the way it is celebrated today. Just to confuse the issue Martin Luther, the great reformer, chose this same day to nail his famous 95 theses to the Wittenberg Church door, which sparked the Protestant Reformation, and as such this day is also called Reformation Day.

So, why bother with a history lesson?  Seems to me that we need to understand the reasons behind things rather than blindly following traditions! I suspect that Luther chose this day to nail his thesis to the door because he was challenging the way the Church of his day had lost the plot, not only with the selling of indulgences but also with the displaying of relics which would have brought a great crowd to the church on that day. Luther was not trying to form a new religion or even a new denomination, he was just calling on his peers to get back to what the Bible said, and think about what they were doing.

Some things don’t change, and my role too is to help people think about what they believe, understand the story behind traditions, teach what the Bible says and grapple with how to apply that to daily life. On that basis what are doing this Halloween, All Saints Day and Reformation Day? If you want to talk about it, put in a response and we’ll have a chat.

“Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me” (Martin Luther)

Chaplain Ian Whitley

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