The 31st October is a date which you might notice in the diary – perhaps an evening you mark with a ghoulish costume, or by taking the children trick or treating, or even staying in and watching a film that makes you want to hide behind the sofa. Hallowe’en has been marked for centuries as the feast of All Hallow’s Eve, preceding All Souls Day in the Christian Church calendar, absorbing the Celtic festival of Samhain.
This year, Hallowe’en marks an extra special date. 500 years ago, according to tradition on 31st October, Martin Luther chose this festival to publicise his complaints about the Roman Catholic Church as part of an argument for reform. His actions and this document, now known as the 95 Theses, would spark centuries of warfare, political turmoil and endless debate.
As part of the current exhibition about the early years of the Reformation, visitors have been asked to think about what they would like to change about the world, just as Luther did. Responses have been varied and intriguing, from ending wars to using correct grammar; some consider religion outdated while others see it as the future. The diversity of responses to this single question no doubt mirrors the diversity of people’s opinions in the years after 1517, as the many new ideas of the Reformation forced individuals to make a choice.
So what does this matter: 500 years on, should we care? Does it matter that Luther, amongst others, challenged the Church and set in motion events which we now know as the Reformation? This year, why not change your plans for the 31st October and join us for an evening of activities, collection close ups, music and debate as we ask: Who Gives a Fig?
Alongside close up viewings of some of the important Reformation material in the John Rylands collections, there will be demonstrations of printing, performances of contemporary ballads and a debate involving historians, religious leaders and broadcasters which will give you the chance to make up your own mind: 500 years on, should we give a fig?
You can book online for The Reformation: Who Gives a Fig at www.library.manchester.ac.uk/rylands/whats-on: just follow the links for the event on 31st October. Join us for a Hallowe’en to remember!
If you’re interested in personal responses to the Reformation exhibition, search #jrlReformation on Twitter for some insights.