Despite another better known celebration that occurs today, October 31 is also celebrated as Reformation Day – being a commemoration of the date of October 31, 1517 that Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg, Germany.
Luther posted the 95 Theses on the eve of All Saints Day, realizing that there would be a mass the following day where many would see his post to comment on. He also sent copies to the archbishop Albert of Mainz and to the bishop of Brandenburg, his supervisor. Within two weeks the content had spread throughout Germany and within two months, throughout Europe. In January 1518, friends of Luther translated the theses from Latin to German and through the use of the printing press, made them widely available. His Theses primarily concerned his opposition to the sale of indulgences (the idea that you can purchase eternal salvation for yourself or release a loved one from purgatory) and on the importance of repentance. The photo below/right is of the famous Wittenberg doors.
Reformation Day is celebrated in Lutheran churches, generally the Sunday before the 31st and various churches in the Protestant and Reformed traditions as well. I can remember a church near to where I lived in Virginia that encouraged children to dress up as Reformation “heroes” for the day and a dear friend of mine who teaches 4 year olds said her students were dressing up as saints of the church today :>. Aside from how churches celebrate the day, it is a reminder of one of the key tenets of the Reformation that Protestant theology has developed from – the idea that we are sinners justified by grace alone through our faith alone in Christ – that our salvation rests on what Christ’s work for us has done and not on any work of our own.