It all started almost 500 years ago. Once upon a time there was a little boy named Martin Luther.
Martin was very poor, as were all the boys in his village. They were poor because every year a scary Lion from Rome would visit and take all the village’s money. Lion would go into All Saints’ Church (or All Hallows’ Church), stand at the top of the bell tower, and mightily roar,
“I am Lion! Hear me roar!
Give your gold! Give me more!
I won’t stop until you do!
You won’t sleep until I’m through!”
This scared Martin and all the children very much. So every year the families would go to All Hallows’ Church one by one and knock on the door. Lion would make them say “Purgatory or treat,” because if the village did not give Lion his treats, he would not give them indulgences.
Martin decided that he had had enough of this. He decided that he would stop Lion. That year, Lion came at the time of the harvest and locked himself in the church and demanded his treats, roaring,
“I am Lion! Hear me roar!
Give your food! Give me more!
I hold the Keys, I stand on the Rock!
Until you admit it, I won’t stop!”
Martin knew he would need help to stop Lion, so he went to visit his friend Calvin. Calvin was a sad and lonely boy who spent most of his day reading books, but he was very smart and clever.
Martin knocked on Calvin’s door and said, “I am going to stop Lion and kick him out of our village! You are so very clever. What shall we do?”
Calvin opened the door and said,
“Silly Martin. You can’t stop Lion.
He’s so very strong, it’s not even worth tryin’.
If God wants to do it then in time He will,
And if He does not then I won’t waste my skill.”
For Calvin was clever and very well read,
But also quite lazy, and left not his bed.
Martin needed someone else to help him to stop Lion, so he went to visit his other friend Wycliffe. Wycliffe was clever but moreover quite active. Wycliffe had learned to speak Lion’s language and secretly shared Lion’s books with the villagers. Surely he would help!
Martin knocked on the door and said, “I am going to stop Lion and kick him out of our village! You are so very clever and active! What shall we do?”
But it was not Wycliffe who came to the door.
“I’m so very sorry, but please stay outside.
I’m sorry to say that my brother has died.
We did not pay Lion so he’ll come for us,
But it was nice to meet you. My name is Jan Hus.”
Wycliffe and Jan – They were both bold and smart.
But sadly for them, Lion’s teeth were too sharp.
Martin started off, but before he could go
Jan Hus said, “There’s one little thing you should know
My brother found out, before he got sick,
The Lion is lying – Purgatory’s a trick!”
Martin was very sad. He simply had to stop Lion but Wycliffe was gone, Jan would be soon, and Calvin was just too lazy. Martin almost gave up but then, on the last day in October, he had a brilliant idea!
“I can’t outsmart Lion. He can’t be out-dared.
But what if, I wonder, he were to be scared?”
So Martin went to visit his last friend, Zwingli. He knocked on the door and said, “Zwingli! I am going to stop Lion and scare him out of our village!”
Zwingli opened the door and asked, “How?”
Martin explained how they’d chase out the Lion.
Martin would dress up and then terrify him!
They took to the kitchen and chopped up his hair
And made him look sickly, his head’s top was bare.
Lion would run, thinking Martin a nut,
For no one is sane who has that hair cut.
Lion would tremble and Lion would flee
And the people of Wittenberg would then be free!
Dressed up as a complete lunatic, Martin went to All Hallows’ Church. Lion roared from the tower,
“I am Lion! Hear me roar!
Give your soul! Give me more!
I don’t care if there’s a recession!
I have apostolic succession!”
Martin knocked on the door, refusing to stop
Until Lion arrived on the 95th knock.
The doors opened wide with an ominous creak.
And Lion growled out, “Purgatory or treat!”
“Trick or treat!” The bald boy said,
Yelling quite loudly and showing his head.
The Lion was frightened, his eyes filled with dread.
“What is wrong with your hair!?” He shouted and fled.
Then Martin called out to the people nearby,
“Good news, everyone! Purgatory’s a lie!
We’re saved from our sins only by grace
And the Righteous, from this day on, shall live by faith!”
The people of Wittenberg shouted and applauded and that winter was the most joyful winter in years! Lion tried to come back every year, but the people of Wittenberg would knock on All Hallows’ Church’s door dressed as monsters to scare Lion away. They named the day “Hollowe’en,” after Lion’s hollow doctrine. In later years, they discovered they could scare Lion using images carved into hollowed-out pumpkins. Calvin always left his house a mess of pumpkin guts, but his brother Jacob was always there to clean up Calvin’s messes.
Wycliffe and Jan were gone, but the village built a library in their honour and filled it with all kinds of books! Martin and Zwingli remained good friends, but occasionally disagreed over the health benefits of juice and crackers.
And for the next 499 years, the village was free and happy and peaceful, apart from the occasional party on Azusa Street which the village was mostly okay with it. And that’s the true story of Halloween.
Happy 499th birthday, Protestantism!