On this Day

According to tradition, Martin Luther, on this day in 1517 nailed on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany his Ninety-five Theses, protesting against the sale of indulgences and the Pope's claim to forgive sins. The first thesis pitted the authority of the Bible against sacramental tradition and precipitated the Protestant Reformation.This deliberate attempt to return to the origins of the Faith made sola scriptura one of its most important principles.

Although Halloween, also celebrated this day, is now largely observed as a secular holiday, it was, as the Eve of All Saint's Day, originally a religious festival. Halloween , however, has its true origins in the Celtic pagan festival of Samhain in Britain and Ireland. November 1 marked the end of the Summer period when herds were returned from pasture. It also was when the spirits of the Dead returned to their homes. Bonfires were lit on hilltops to frighten them away and people wore masks to disguise themselves from them.

The Romans in the 1st Century merged their festival of Feralia, commemorating the passing of the Dead and of Pomona, goddess of the harvest, which is why we still duck for apples. In the 7th Century Pope Boniface IV instituted All Saint's Day, originally on May 13th, but changed the following century to November 1st to supplant the pagan holiday with a Christian observance. The Protestant Reformation put an end to its religious significance for Protestants but it has continued as a secular holiday, particularly among the Irish and Scots in the USA .

The old British custom of trick-or-treat continues,whereby the poor could publicly ask around the doors for alms.The Celtic practice of the worship of skulls has become the Jack-o'-Lantern, originally carved turnip, but now pumpkin heads. Witches and Spooks still abound to scare us all. But it is now a time for children, and since the middle of the 20th Century the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has attempted to make this day a day for securing aid for children throughout the world.

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