How to Celebrate "Reformation Day" Without Being Weird

Just in case you were unaware: October 31st is an important date for Protestants, and it has nothing to do with Halloween. October 31st is known as Reformation Day. It was this day in 1517 that Martin Luther, a Catholic monk, nailed his 95 Theses for discussion to the church door in Wittenberg. What resulted over the course of many years was a massive reformation of the Christian church.

Many Christians, in an attempt to offer an alternative to Halloween, celebrate Reformation day on October 31st. It is, indeed, a great day to celebrate, but some who celebrate it in response to Halloween really make protestants look ridiculous. So I would like to propose a few tips for hosting a fun Reformation Day celebration, while at the same time avoiding some of the common mistakes that other Reformation celebrations tend to make:

(1) Use Halloween as a template, not as a target. Even if you think Halloween is some morally/spiritually evil holiday (see my article Is Halloween Sin?), don’t make your festivities about bashing a nationally recognized holiday. For one, it simply sets a bad tone for your party. At this level your party becomes a “how-can-we-be-better-than-those-who-celebrate-halloween” party, which not only doesn’t sound inviting, but in fact simply sounds arrogant. Secondly, it also limits those who are willing to come. If you use the Halloween template, however, and simply invite people over for a Halloween type party that focuses on also celebrating the Reformation then more people will want to participate.

(2) Don’t Lecture Everyone About Luther. While it is important to remember history, it’s also important to remember that some (many?) of your guests may not like history to the same degree as you. Furthermore, not many people really like to be lectured at while partying.

(3) Themed Parties Can Be Fun, But Don’t Overdo It. Most people just like hanging out with friends while at a party. They don’t need to or even want to play “Pin the Theses on the Church Door” or “Calvinst Crosswords” etc. Keep that in mind as you plan your party. You can dress up like Luther and have fun with the theme, but there’s a point at which dorkiness and goofiness can become obnoxious. Know where the line is and don’t cross it.

I hope your parties are fun this weekend, and remember that above all else remembering Luther won’t be nearly as important as serving your friends and spending time with them. Jesus is more concerned with your love of your neighbors then your remembrance of the Reformation.

About Dave Dunham
  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    RE #1: Also, it helps to call it a Halloween party and just celebrate the Reformation in your hearts. Somebody asked us as a group yesterday when we celebrate Reformation Day. I shouted out: “Every day!” I think I won.

    Re #2: Seriously, wouldn’t you hate it if you went to, like, a 4th of July BBQ and got a lecture on John Madison and Alexander Hamilton, etc.

    Re #3: This terrible trend can be reversed by being Zombie Luther, pinning the 95 bags of theses on the Zombie Door of Vittenburg with a unicorn’s horn, and having a Calvinist Crossword Burning Party (copies of The Institutes are also welcome for the extravagant guests).

  • http://bearspace.baylor.edu/Brittany_Noble/www/ Brittany

    I did not know about Reformation Day–it’s amusing that it’s on Halloween. And I definitely vote for the Zombie Luther costume–I want to see that happen!! :-)

  • David Dunham

    We will accept all picutres of Zombie Luther comstumes and rate them right here at CAPC. Consider the Zombie Luther costume contest begun!

  • http://www.benbartlett.blogspot.com Ben Bartlett

    Am I alone in feeling that the above comment conversation completely undercuts the titular claim?

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    Oh I don’t know, Ben. I think, “it helps to call it a Halloween party and just celebrate the Reformation in your hearts,” is a perfectly un-weird way to celebrate Reformation Day.

  • Abby

    Realizing my comments are now two years out from those above….

    If you’re celebrating for the right reasons, it isn’t weird. God reclaimed the Gospel in the Church via the men and events we celebrate in Reformation Day.

    Trying to ignore the gruesomeness of celebrating death, wickedness, and gore on Halloween is not weird.

    Setting a gentle example to friends that “We won’t be celebrating Halloween like the rest of society today; we are celebrating our rich heritage of God’s Word that day,” is only weird to those who don’t get it. That’s their problem. It isn’t my responsibility to be not-weird by getting sucked in to a nasty secular holiday.

    Perhaps before blogging, and before commenting on blogs, and before indicating that Reformation Day celebrations are strange or inappropriate, consider that Halloween is completely against decent moral values (Christianity aside). You dress your kids up as disgusting things, send them to strangers houses to beg candy, then you have to sort through it to make sure those strangers aren’t trying to kill the kids with razor blades or the like. “Go run around on the street at dusk in a costume…but be safe!” Isn’t that weird, and almost irresponsible, of parents?

    There are communities that have many practicing devil worshipers — people who DO mutilate animals for sacrifice and other horrid practices. Halloween isn’t a joke. Why does Reformation Day have to be looked at as one?

    Get solid priorities.

  • Sharon

    Yeah, I’m with Abby. Not that I want to celebrate Reformation day JUST to be different, but I do think that being different is what we are called to be as believers. Just because Halloween is a nationally recognized holiday doesn’t mean it’s ok to celebrate it in all its gore (zombies?! Really?!). As believers, particularly protestant believers, we have a very real reason to celebrate on Oct. 31st! Why be conformed to the world when we, instead, could leave a lasting and meaningful tradition to pass down to our children that teaches them about an important time in church history?

  • http://goodokbad.com/ Seth T. Hahne

    @Abby

    Setting a gentle example to friends that “We won’t be celebrating Halloween like the rest of society today; we are celebrating our rich heritage of God’s Word that day,” is only weird to those who don’t get it.

    It’s actually weird to those of us who do get it too. Look, I’m a reformed Xian. I enjoy the fruit of Luther’s work every Sunday. That doesn’t mean that I don’t find it weird for people to intentionally say, “Hey. Look. I’m not going to be celebrating your evil holiday guys. Instead I’m going to be celebrating the life and work of this dead guy. ” It seems like just another way for Xians to come off as holier than thou.

    And plus, it’s entirely unnecessary. Saying that Halloween is completely against decent moral values is a pretty sizable stretch. It 1) presumes that there is one acceptable way in which to celebrate Halloween and 2) suggests that if one’s celebration does involve some level of acknowledgement of death, that holidays acknowledging death is somehow abhorrent in moral society.

    1) When you say things like, “You dress your kids up as disgusting things,” you need to realize that you’re only representing a small number of people. I dressed my daughter up as Yotsuba for Halloween last year. As Ponyo this year. My recent costumes have included a Barrel of Monkeys, a nun, a monk, and a cartoon character. I hosted a Halloween party every year and gore, violence, and death were never thematic elements. It was just a good time for everyone.

    If you don’t want to dress your kid as a zombie, then not having fun on Halloween is not your only option. You could also simply not dress your child up as a zombie.

    2) All cultures have their traditions and ritual ways of acknowledging death as a society. I don’t personally use Halloween for this, but I don’t begrudge those who find a certain kind of catharsis in the day’s reminder that our bodies will one day be a mouldering of bones. It seems a little cheeky to judge someone for that. Maybe you don’t like it, but showing a little empathy toward those who do might lend more toward pointing your neighbour toward Christ than simply deeming their celebration evil when you seem to have a rather-too-facile understanding of what the holiday means on a cultural level.

    @Sharon

    Just because Halloween is a nationally recognized holiday doesn’t mean it’s ok to celebrate it in all its gore (zombies?! Really?!).

    One doesn’t have to celebrate gore or zombies in order to celebrate Halloween. Just like one doesn’t have to celebrate gross commercialism in order to celebrate Xmas. These things are not intrinsic to the celebrations. Your Halloween celebration can simply be your family dressing up in fun costumes, having fun fellowship with friends, and enjoying the common grace of the Lord through the festive atmosphere of the season. Or your celebration can be something else.

    My Halloweens these days involve carving fun designs on pumpkins, dressing my daughter in cute costumes, being a good neighbour to the children who come to my door, and maybe enjoying the company of friends at a party or two. To hear people describe my Halloween as nasty or evil or as a conformation to worldly pursuits is sad—because it shows how little they care to understand these sorts of things. They’ve allowed a couple negative experiences to wholly corrupt their ability to approach things with any sort of nuance.

  • http://goodokbad.com Seth T. Hahne

    So I watched what the kids who approached my door tonight were wearing.
    • Angry Bird
    • Angry Bird Pig
    • Princess
    • Snow White
    • Kid wearing a The Scream mask
    • Spider-Man
    • Pirate
    • Princess
    • Princess
    • Pirate
    • Fireman
    • Elmo
    • Army man
    • Army man
    • Pirate
    • Godzilla
    • A magical goldfish
    _____________________

    I’d be hard pressed to say that these kids were celebrating evil. There were pirates and we all know that these were men of questionable character, but these kids were dressed as the fun-loving Peter Pan-style of pirate. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum, etc. I guess the army kids could be considered evil if you’re inclined to think poorly of the armed services. Pacifism, what hey. Really, the only kid of dubious character was the kid dressed as the guy from Scream. But I mean, what’re you gonna do. When guys hit Jr. High, they think that stuff’s spooky cool.

    All said, I don’t think any of these parents dressed their kids as disgusting things. And to pretend that they were is to read gross moral calamity into their parents—which seems unfair.

  • Kiel

    I’ve enjoyed a number of zombie movies over the past several days, leading up to one of the most entertaining of holidays. I also played some Halloween Angry Birds as well.

    I’m a big advocate of enjoying things such as holidays and festivities in such a matter as one sees fit – trusting others to be able to discern for themselves how they choose to celebrate, even if it’s different than myself. I have a group of friends who all enjoy well made horror films. We all draw enjoyment from this and find no harm in it. In fact, I recently watched Saw (an example of a fairly thoughtful modern horror film) with a couple of people from this site. Afterwards, we had what I felt was a very interesting and helpful discussion about it. No harm done.

    I’ve never partaken in a Reformation party, partly because it doesn’t really interest me and mostly because I feel like it would inevitably feel “holier than thou.” For those that do, more power to you. Hope everyone that did over the past few days had as much fun as I had celebrating Halloween.

  • Arleen Blackstone

    Reformation Celebration is also called a Harvest Festival. Dress in 1500s garb, knights and ladies. Church prepares menu from Luther’s time. “Lost” my booklet with ideas for activities: crafts for children, scripture decoding from English to Wing Dings; “artifacts” displayed like a nail from the cross, a piece of the Jesus’ cross; “wine” that Jesus changed from water; “hair” of Peter; a dried fig; the possibilities are endless. Decorations include a hand crafted chandelier with candles, fabric painted like heavy stone covering all walls. One interactive game was nuns (Kate) escaping from the nunnery in wine vats.
    WOULD LIKE OTHER IDEAS. Kindly send me information.

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