Luther monument in Wittenberg, and the so-called Thesentür at the palace church (which is a memorial, not the original door)
October 31 is:
1. to the Protestant churches, Reformation Day;
2. to kids and those who like to party, and to shopkeepers, Halloween;
3. for the record: to the Catholic Church, the holiday of St Wolfgang, the patron saint of the diocese of Regensburg.
Reformation Day recalls the event that was later declared the beginning of the reformation: Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses against to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. He planned a disputation about that topic on the following day and publishing statements about the topic this way was common academic usage – the church door served as the university’s notice board. Luther had planned to reform, not divide the Roman Church but as we know things turned out differently. So this day became the birthday of Lutheran Protestantism.
Protestant churches with Lutheran or United background hold services on Reformation Day, usually in the evening. October 31 is a public holiday in the five Eastern federal states: Berlin-Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt and Thüringen. Only in 2017, October 31 is a holiday in the entire country due to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
Halloween is a recent import from beyond the pond. Shops contribute a lot to the popularity of this event for commercial reasons, just like Valentine’s Day. Decorations and costumes sell well. The young generation are the biggest fans: children for collecting sweets, teenagers and young adults for partying.
In recent years groups of masked children have been around at dusk begging for sweets like in America. The German threat is, “Süßes oder Saures” (“sweet or sour”) for “trick or treat”. However, not everyone will give out sweets or even answer the door (I don’t). This custom has no roots here and many people refuse to play.
To be honest, I don’t like it very much. There is an older tradition of giving out goodies for children on St Martin’s Day but for that, kids have to do something: dress up, do a parade, perform the songs and scenes. Then they receive treats in return for what they do, instead of greedy little monsters extorting sweets from people by threatening them with nasty tricks.