There are a ton of articles floating around the internet this week about why Christians should celebrate Halloween or why Christians shouldn't celebrate Halloween. I'm not going to argue for or against Halloween-- it's a personal decision and I see both sides. But, like many many other parenting decisions, I think its a gray area that two different people who both love Jesus can come to two different conclusions. I don't want to join the Halloween debate, it's not a fight I want to have, but I do want to share with you about another important holiday -- Reformation Day.
Full disclosure: I grew up in a home that was not allowed to celebrate Halloween. Instead we celebrated "Reformation Day" We went to Reformation festival with games and candy and a costume contest. We dressed up as bible characters and reformation characters and the games were "reformation or bible themed" (imagine "pin the 95 thesis to the door" - yep, can't make this stuff up) One year my family was the 6 days of creation -- I was the day God created the birds. We one the costume contest. I kid you not. I wish I had pictures to show you....
Not celebrating Halloween was fine. I still enjoyed fall traditions like pumpkin patches and candy and fall festivals. Despite teasing my parents with how bad my childhood was due to no Halloween, I truly am not traumatized in any way from lack of Halloween. But I did miss it....I wanted to dress up like a princess, not a bible character (bible characters don't wear pretty clothes....). I wanted to go door to door with friends. I wanted to go to halloween parties and carve pumpkins. It wasn't an essential part of my childhood, but it would have been a fun "extra" Luckilly, beginning mid elementary, we had church community and Reformation celebrations did fill the void of no celebrations.
Another full disclosure: I started celebrating halloween as soon as I was in college. I started going to costume parties, bought candy for dorm trick or treaters, carved pumpkins, etc. And although I'm not making any major parenting decisions right now since I don't have kids (no cart before the horse!) - but I will most likely let me kids celebrate some form of halloween -- no witches or zombies, but good wholesome superheros, firemen, cute animals and princesses!! Maybe they get to go trick or treating or maybe they just get to wear their non-biblical attire to the church Reformation festival. (No offense to biblical characters, but their outfits don't include pink and sequins and all things girly!) There is no denying that some aspects of Halloween are downright evil (and some parts of secular Christmas are evil too) -- but I think there is a way we can celebrate with pumpkins and costumes and not witches and darkness.
Although I differ from my parents on my decision to celebrate Halloween, one thing I would not change about my childhood and will not change for my children is the explination and celebration of the Reformation every fall. As a Christian, and particularly as a protestant, the Reformation is essential in the life and teachings of the church. It's an area of our history that many believers don't learn much about until their high school history classes, but I received lessons from the church and my parents beginning in elementary school. This explination and celebration was essential to my understanding of the gospel at a young age. Christ alone. Faith alone. Neither good works nor others could grant you salvation. What a freeing concept -- not an excuse for sin, but a comfort that our sin will not determine our eternal fate, that despite being so horribly wicked and evil, I am loved more than I could ever imagine and my sins have been paid for....not be works, not by indulgencies (or any modern day comparisons), but by the death and ressurection of my Savior. I think many children don't completely understand grace when they are young, nor do they understand the importance of keeping the church safe from false doctrine. I learned both concepts early on - in part- from my childhood celebrations of the Reformation.
We learned about Luther, his greivances, his 95 theses, etc. We also learned the 5 solae that summarized the big beliefs of the reformation:
(1) Sola scriptura (scripture alone)
(2) sola fide (faith alone)
(3) Sola gratia (grace alone)
(4) solus Christus (Christ alone)
(5) soli deo gloria (Glory to God alone)
These are biblical concepts, not newly created by Luther or other reformers, but highlighted during the Reformation and through our teaching of the Reformation. It is important to familiarize and refamiliarize ourselves with truth like the 5 solaes so that we are prepared to respond in courage and truthfulness when faced with false teaching. Since the church is made up of sinners like you and I, there will constantly be incorrect teachings and the church should always be reforming itself, to stay true to the gospel.
So, as fun as dressing up and candy corn and pumpkins can be, as a Christian, I want Reformation to always be a part of our family fall celebrations and more importantly, I want it to be the focus. Growing up, I celebrated Christmas - with gifts and good food, but this only came after a month of advent, Christmas communion, the Christmas story being read, etc. Certainly we can celebrate Halloween in the same way -- as a fun additive to a very important time of year. So, although I don't think it's wrong for Christians to celebrate Halloween, I do think we are missing out if we fail to also celebrate the Reformation.
I am thankful for Luther and the other reformers. I am thankful that they bravely stood for what was true. I pray that we also have the knowledge to give an account for what we believe and the courage to do so.
"Unless I am convinced by Scripture and by plain reason ...in those Scriptures that I have presented, for my conscience is captive to the Word of God, I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me. Amen.” - Martin Luther
Yeah, even calvinists have a sense of humor....
NOTE: This is in no way a slam on the Catholic church who later reformed themselves. The Catholic church is older than most modern day protestant churches and it makes complete sense that after so many years of both good and bad teachings, there would be a need for reformation just like many different denominations need today. I also am in no way suggesting that Catholics are not Christians while Protestants are. I know many Catholics who love and serve the same Jesus I do and many protestants who don't. That being said, I am very very presbyterian and obviously do not agree with Catholicism - otherwise I would be Catholic. I do believe a Reformation was needed to correct some wrongs in the church (namely the selling or indulgences and any other implication that heaven was reached by works and not grace) and I do believe its a crucial part of church history. However, my post was only meant to express my belief that Reformation should be celebrated alongside Halloween. It is also a post expressing thankfulness for Martin Luther and his influence on the modern day protestant churches-- and ultimately, thankfulness for a Lord that saves based on the work of his son, not my works.