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Not Halloween, Reformation Day!

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I don’t have any special religious distaste for Halloween. I’ve pontificated at length — though not previously on the record — that churches who have “Fall Harvest” events on October 31 in which kids dress in costumes and collect candy ought to be forced at gunpoint to call their Halloween parties “Halloween Parties.” I haven’t decided whether holding the “Harvest Celebration” on the Wednesday night closest to Halloween is better or worse than holding it on Halloween itself. I suppose it might be better, in that you can get candy from them on Wednesday and then go our trick-or-treating tonight and get still more, but then you would have to put with the sorts of people that would have a Halloween party on the wrong day and call it something completely different.

I wonder, if I referred to it as a Halloween party in front of them, would they stick their fingers in their ears and say, “Na na na, I’m not listening?”

Anyway, I don’t have a problem with Halloween. But the fact that I’m dressed in a costume at work today has nothing to do with that. Rather, I’m dressed as a monk to celebrate Reformation Day.

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his list of 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany, and more or less unintentionally set into motion the series of events that we now call the Protestant Reformation. Roughly half of the Christians in the world today — one billion of them — worship today in churches that exist because of Luther’s actions, more than half of them directly and knowingly continuing in the traditions established by Luther.

And today, exactly 486 years later, I’m wearing a monk costume. I really wanted to shave my head in an odd pattern to match the hairstyle worn by Joseph Fiennes in the current movie Luther (which I reviewed here), but my wife protested most effectively on the grounds that nobody I’m likely to encounter today has even seen the movie. Had I thought ahead carefully, I might have supplemented my rather generic-looking costume with a mug of beer and a mallet, or even a copy of the 95 These in English, the original Latin, or the quickly-translated German.

But I didn’t, and one coworker has already suggested that I look like a satan-worshiper. I think it’s the bushy goatee. But I’m not celebrating Samhain, and I’m not even celebrating Halloween. I’m Martin Luther, father of the Reformation, and I’m celebrating Reformation Day.

Happy Reformation Day!

(And if all of that sounds as ridiculous to you as it does to me, I think I’ve demonstrated my point about churches having October carnivals.)

About pwinn

  • andy

    Happy Reformation Day to you as well! As a member of the Presbyterian Church of America, Reformation day is a big deal to me! Our denomination stays true to the teachings of Luther and reformed faith as taught by people like Luther and John Calvin, so my doctrine owes a lot to Martin Luther. Hooray for Reformation Day!

  • JG

    Islam needs a Martin Luther of its own. And Fox News is not ‘Fair and Balanced’; it is just much closer to neutral than the other TV news organizations. MSNBC is trying though.

  • Kurt Nordstrom

    They had a Reformation Day party at the Presby church that my wife and I have been visiting. I think, ironically, enough, that it was on Wednesday. Go figure.

    About the head-shaven thing. This is just another case where it is easier to get forgiveness than permission. Act, don’t discuss!

  • http://fando.blogs.com Natalie Davis

    Happy Reformation Day!

    Interestingly, many of the Roman Catholic Church’s woes can be traced directly to the grievances Luther nailed to that wall 486 years ago today.

  • http://mcfrank.blogspot.com Chris Arabia

    95 theses? where’s emily litella when you need her?

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    By the time I went door-to-door with the kids, I did have two copies of Luther’s 95 Theses, one in the original Latin and one in English, just in case somebody asked me to read them. My wife strongly suggested that nobody would care one whit about Luther versus a generic monk, but the 95 Theses did the trick. I had two different people ask me if I planned to nail them to any door in the area…

    Though I attend a reformed Episcopal church, the aren’t doing anything special for the holiday, probably because the rector is out of town speaking at the consecration of a new bishop this weekend.

    And no beer in the house, either. Oh well.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    And yes, I counted PCA churches among the half-billion or so direct descendants of Luther.

  • Chaplain Wiedeman

    I am looking for the copyright holders of Christian videos, without much success. If you know of any way to find them, please let me know. Ordinary searches on the internet have been unfruitful.

    Thanks

    Robert E. Wiedeman, Chaplain

  • http://www.goodnewscrc.org Dave Watson

    Looking for some Children’s materials for Reformation Day – some graphics for a Sunday School

  • http://victorplenty.blogspot.com/ Victor Plenty

    Good on ya, Phillip!

    You show how the “true” meaning of old pagan festivals, once co-opted by Christians and then later re-co-opted by modern popular culture, is still a bit of a cultural battlefield.

    The churches don’t seem to be taking a very strong position in this battle by holding October “Harvest” parties, or even with “Reformation Day.” Whatever happened to their old strategy: calling it the eve of All Saints’ Day? Did the Protestants drop that approach just because they don’t like saints quite so much anymore?

    Not that it matters so much, really. Now that the Halloween shopping season is starting to get as lucrative as the Christmas shopping season, the power to define the meaning of this holiday is settling into the firm grip of the grasping hands of commerce.

    Now that’s scary.

  • Megan

    Hello. My two year old will be going to our church’s Reformation Party as the 95 theses nailed to the door. It is our goal to bless our children above and beyond what they would ever experience as mere trick or treaters and give them a certain joy concerning such a critical event in church history. Even if we are bobbing in “providence pond” I appreciate that you are dressed up and not going around grumbling about “pagan holidays” Actually, I found your page while trying to google ’95 theses costume’…..

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    Boring person that I am, I’m reprising the costume again this year, though this year I did shave my head!

    Happy Halloween, Happy Reformation Day, and enjoy All Saints Day tomorrow!

  • Nancy

    Actually, I think that’s rather witty as well as informative – the Martin Luther thing & all. How many people look at you and “get it”? Can’t give you an assessment on shaving your head, tho; that will have to be between you, your conscience, & your wife.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Screw Reformation Day. I’m building a wicker cage and looking for our cat.

    Dave

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    Nancy, not many. I expected zero, and I’ve gotten more than that, but not a lot more. :-)

  • Nancy

    I’ve got to admit, if you were just dressed as monk, I’d figure you were generic, but if you’re walking around w/something labeled “95 Theses” & a hammer, I’d have a clue, at least. Oh, well.

  • Lise

    Funny … I have seen the movie Luther, but honestly didn’t know there was a “reformation day”. I learned about it at Church while I was incharge of the nursery last Sunday. My friend talked about how she wanted to celebrate that instead of doing Harvest festival at another Church, which is all there seems to be around our area. I did the Halloween thing growing up, and that was ALL it was to me. I know better NOW, so I won’t celebrate Halloween. We will be going to a Harvest festival this year. But I like this idea. This is an alternative that could include possible games, and stories, which if you ask me is way better then just dressing up going house to house … I love it! To late this year, but maybe next year! A celebration of how Martin Luther changed our faith! Without the 95 Thesis … what would our faith be today? Definitly worth celebrating! I’m going to talk to my friend, and maybe we can organize something in the Church. That would be so fun.
    As for shaving your head … being a woman myself … if my husband did it … well … I would be upset. lol But EVENTUALLY I’d forgive him. I’d make him shave it all off the next day though, or that night. lol NO way would he go around like that until the hair grew back in that bald spot. lol You could always get a wig with a bald spot in it. I’m sure there’s a costume place somewhere that’ll sell “monk” hair. lol Good luck with that!

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    I was at a party Saturday night where someone had a “monk” wig. It wasn’t nearly as good as the real thing. My head, as it is now, gets looks. :-)

    Tomorrow I’ll shave it all off to match, which I do every now and then anyway, so it’s not so bad for me.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    Nancy, I have never tried carrying a hammer. Perhaps that’s what my costume is missing!

  • Becky from Baton Rouge

    Reformation Day is to be praised. It is one of the reasons why my faith in God runs so deep and so strong, but I am also a little weary of “fall carnivals”. Trick or Treating is great for kids, but I think a fall carnival as a supplement might not be a bad idea as well. As long as they aren’t holding the carnival just to eschew trick or treating, I’m fine with it. But, the liklihood of that being true is slim.

    You wouldn’t understand, nor would we expect you to, the power of Reformation Day unless you were a Christian who has surrendered your life to Christ.

  • Becky from Baton Rouge

    I spelled likelihood wrong in my earlier piece. Oops.

  • Yvette

    I am trying to plan a “Marty Party’ for our Sunday School this week. Any ideas for games for children ranging from ages 3-12?

  • http://blogcritics.org/ Phillip Winn

    Yvette, you could try “Pin the blame on the Papist,” but it seems so very out of style these days.

    “Bobbing for apples,” it turns out, is begging for some sort of raging bacterial infection.

    You could have them take turns standing and saying, “Here I stand, I can do no other” in their most stentorian tones, but that might not work so well with the younger kids.

    Sorry I’m no help! :-)

  • http://differentcloth.blogspot.com/ Jeff Stewart

    Let’s triteously sanctify our folly.