For many of my Christian friends – and for some of my friends of other faiths and no-faith – Halloween can be a real challenge. Our kids want to dress up (what kid doesn't love dressing up?) They want to be given lots of sweets (what kid doesn't love lots of sweets?). But there's something underlying the whole thing that, for me, feels dark and uncomfortable.
Halloween's popularity hit me when my children were in primary school. It was an October afternoon and we were walking home from school with some other parents, one of whom turned to me and said, 'I can't believe there is so much Christmas stuff in the shops already, it takes all the fun out of Halloween!'
I'm not sure when Halloween became so popular in the UK. I've always been aware that it was quite big in the US, but the only memory I have of Halloween when I was growing up was apple bobbing.
As a parent of three daughters I have had to navigate my way through the Halloween conundrum. When I became a single parent, it was even more of a challenge. Many a Halloween night was spent at the local pizza restaurant, staying out for as long as we could until we felt it would be safe to go home because hopefully we would have avoided the door knockers. Then there were those years when money was tight and we couldn't afford to go out. Those Halloween nights were spent hiding in the house with the lights off so that trick or treaters didn't know we were home. As a single mum with three young daughters, home alone, having random people dressed in scary masks knocking on our door was actually quite terrifying. We often woke up the following morning to find our front door had been egged – it mystifies me to this day how they knew we were home.
So I decided to do something. If I didn't like Halloween then I needed to provide an alternative. I organised light parties and community movie and popcorn nights at our church, which had mixed results. I began to realise that hiding away at home or at church was not the right solution for me.
The world and Christianity are always going to clash and there are things which are going to make us Jesus followers very uncomfortable. I've learnt though that I don't need to embrace what I don't like or feel uncomfortable with, but I can change how I deal with it. I don't need to do anything that compromises who I am or what I stand for but I can do what Jesus did and turn things on their head. As Maya Angelou said: 'If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.'
So my husband and I have changed our attitude. We have made the conscious decision to not be the disapproving Christian couple who don't answer the door (I now have a 6'4" ex-military chap living with me so I'm not scared!) or the miserable ones that don't give out sweets. Instead we are the Christian couple who will give out copious amounts of confectionary. We will be the couple who smile and chat with those who come knocking on our door. Why? Because we love those kids and families. Those witches, skeletons, vampires and zombies make up our community and because we love them we don't want to shun, belittle or make them feel uncomfortable. We want to love, include and accept them where they are, because that's what Jesus did for us.
Zach Christensen said Jesus' job is 'to reclaim that which is good, restore what has been distorted, and redeem what has been squandered'. My job is to open the door and give him the chance to do just that.
Mandy Bayton is The Cinnamon Network Advisor for Wales and a freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter @mandyebayton