My husband Mark and I are expecting our first child this autumn. While we are unbelievably excited and thankful for this little gift of new life, there's one thing (giving birth aside) that I'm a little bit nervous about: Baby McDonald is due to make an appearance on 31 October. Yes, our little boy's due date is Halloween.
I'm well aware that only four per cent of babies are actually born on their due date, but I won't be in that minority and that he'll delay his arrival to land somewhere in between All Souls Day and Bonfire Night – ideally on neither of these as I'd like him to have a day all to himself.
As someone who grew up in a Christian home where we weren't allowed to engage in Halloween, my firstborn sharing his special day with one associated with ghosts, ghouls and all sorts of unsavoury characters is not a prospect I'm relishing.
When I was young, on the dreaded night when the neighbours' children would go out trick or treating, my sisters and I would turn off all the lights and sit in darkness so that people thought we weren't home.
I've never been to a Halloween party. But astonishingly, due largely to the increasing influence from across the pond, Halloween is now the third biggest retail period of the year – coming in behind Christmas and Easter.
Because of the rise in popularity, Christians are increasingly trying to find ways to either engage with Halloween or to provide alternatives. The irony is that Halloween was the Church's idea in the first place; Halloween simply being a shortened version of 'All Hallows Eve' – the day before All Hallows Day or All Saints Day. On this day, the Church celebrates Christ's defeat of death and life beyond the grave for those who believe in him.
Maybe it's time we took it back.
Maybe it's more important than ever for Christian parents and church youth leaders to engage the children in their congregations in a Christ-centred, creative way. Because as Christians, we're called to be salt and light in the communities in which God has placed us. We are challenged, like the Apostle Paul, to find points of connection with the culture and from there to find points of contradiction; to be in the world but not of it; to engage with the prevailing narratives of our day, but to point to a better way.
That's why we at World Vision have launched Pumpkin Heroes - a set of Bible-based resources starring Patch the Pumpkin to equip children in churches and communities to respond to Halloween in a positive way, and doing it while thinking about the children less fortunate than them around the world.
We're hoping Pumpkin Heroes, for children aged 4-10 from churches across the UK, will spread light and love in their local communities. They will enjoy a fun-filled journey around your neighbourhood with lots of storytelling, craft-making, game-playing and pumpkin partying, all suitable for Christians seeking a different response to the season.
At World Vision, we believe that Jesus is the light of the world and that he came to bring life in all its fullness for every one of us. But for millions of children around the world, life in all its fullness seems a far cry from the reality of their daily lives. Our vision is of a world in which every child is loved, protected and cared for, and enjoys good health and an education. That's why we work in close to 100 countries to bring about long-term change; we give children a voice in the places where decisions are made and we respond quickly to the emergencies that affect more than 250 million people around the world each year.
As people of hope, we long for the children we serve to live lives free from fear. What better opportunity, then, do we have to turn Halloween into a night of hope, by not only engaging children in the love of Christ for their communities but also enabling them to think and pray for these children around the world, who God loves just as much as He loves our own.
We're excited to be partnering with our friends at Scripture Union, UCB and The Meaningful Chocolate Company in Pumpkin Heroes. Will you join us?
Chine McDonald is head of Christian influence & engagement, World Vision UK. Download your free pack at pumpkinheroes.com and follow on Twitter @PumpkinHeroes and @WorldVisionUK.