31 October: This day is a religious holiday celebrated by Protestants – usually alongside Halloween. It’s a holiday commemorating Martin Luther who – as it is widely believed – nailed 95 theses on the door of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg on 31 October 1517. With these theses, he demanded the reformation of the church – and laid the ground stone for the Protestant religion.
This year is the 500th anniversary
Usually, this holiday is not celebrated annually by all German federal states. This year, in celebration of the 500th anniversary, Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg, Hessen, Niedersachsen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Rheinland-Pfalz, Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein passed short-term regulations which introduced this holiday for 2017 alone. It remains a public holiday in Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia and will be a public holiday in the future as well.
On 31 October 1517, Martin Luther wrote to a letter in which he protested against the sale of indulgences. He added to his letter a copy of his “Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” which came to be known as The 95 Theses. He thought that, since forgiveness was God’s alone to grant, those who claimed that indulgences were a remission for the buyers from all punishments were wrong.
The 95 Theses were quickly translated from Latin into German, printed, and widely copied, making the controversy one of the first in history to be aided by the printing press. Within two weeks, copies of the theses had spread throughout Germany; within two months throughout Europe.
Today we may observe Reformation Day with a sense of moving toward unity and community. It is taken as an opportunity between the different kinds of Christian religions to celebrate common faith, even if they still do not celebrate a common ritual and sacrament.