The odd and amazing holiday that is Halloween

Josh Farnsworth

We have a lot of explaining to do.

Many times, it’s not because our children are too young to understand or lack the life experience some of us crusty old adults have under our belts. 

Some pieces of our lives here in Massachusetts are just…well…hard to simplify.

Among the hardest topics to accurately convey to Cooper (who turns 6 this month) and Milo (3) are the holiday traditions we hold so dear.

There are a lot of visuals hard to polish into concrete reasons for kids. For my family, that includes…

  • Having a tree inside the house for more than a month

  • Hiding plastic eggs around the living room to celebrate a religious occasion

  • Watching a row of adults plow through dozens of hot dogs on TV for a sporting event

Cooper watching a small “highlight” of this year’s Coney Island competition: What are they doing?

Me: Oh, they are trying to see who can eat the most hot dogs.

Cooper: Why?


Cooper: Dad?

Me: People do funny things sometimes on the Fourth of July, huh?

Yeah, being an adult can be hard sometimes, but can you imagine being a 6-year-old trying to understand all of this craziness?

The good news is most of the holiday head scratching is momentary, as they all ultimately lead to really great rewards for the kids. In other words, they get to enjoy a barrage of hanging out with friends and family, candy, toys and candies that come with toys. 

So, even if they have questions, my kids seem careful not to dive in too deep. Pretty sure they don’t want to mess with any of those things they have going for them.

Of all the holidays both hard to explain to a child and tricky to navigate is Halloween.

Halloween is all in good fun, but man o’ man is it hard to rationalize how October 31 goes. My kids have had bouts of extra anxiousness when it comes to scary, creepy monsters, and spend 364 days a year reassuring them they are just parts of stories and don’t exist and anything else to make them feel safe.

And then for one day, we go out of our way to dress up like these monsters and decorate our houses with them as if to invite them over our houses for fun.


Trick-or-treating comes with its own laundry list of things to consider. Whose idea in the first place was it to get dressed up, barge onto our neighbors’ properties demanding food and then inject our kids with a heavy dose of sugar around 7-8 p.m.?

Nice going, whoever you are.

For my kids who have egg, tree nut and peanut allergies, there is extra prep work to be done around Halloween candy. My wife and I buy an extra duffel-bag-worth of sugary snacks in order to exchange with the chocolate bars that are not allowed to ever touch their mouths.

Silver lining: when exchanging candy like this, it’s a good time to teach my kids about currency and how that works. Dollar bills are nice examples when learning about the exchange of goods, but it really hits home solid when a full-sized bag of Cheetos is involved.

We willingly decorate our houses with spider webs after spending precious time explaining to them to NEVER, EVER, EVER touch them. 

I believe my kids do kind of “get it” that Halloween is a trickster, let’s be funny sort of 24-hour period. But when Halloween candy starts popping up in the middle of summer, it sort of forces your hand to go into a song and dance about the whys and whens.

Regardless of the question or concern though, they get candy. And that is the beginning and end of most Halloween-related debates with Cooper and Milo.

All this said, I believe Halloween allows for the greatest of all bonding experiences with your kids when it comes to holiday traditions: the costume.

It’s the one time per year you are openly encouraged to dress up like a cartoon character or superhero and march around town to the delight of everyone. I do this November 1 at work, and Human Resources has a few questions for me. 

But dressing up along with your kids gives you a chance to really be peers for a few hours. You are not ‘dad’ and ‘son’ in these moments. You are Spiderman and Wolverine, saving the world together one doorbell ring at a time.

It’s an interesting dynamic walking hand-in-hand down a darkened street knowing you are both in it together. If you are allowing your son or daughter to pick out a costume for the first time, know these two important things:

  • They will want the big, expensive one

  • They will change their mind about noontime on October 31

It’s true. No matter how much you talk up a costume, nothing is more mesmerizing than…well…pretty much any other costume on the planet hours before s/he is set to put it on.

This year, an edict was handed down in June that the four of us were going to dress up as Marvel characters.

And then it expanded.

My kids decreed several months ago that even more people needed to get in on the action. To date, my brother, sister, mother, father, cousins and other relatives have been called upon to wear a Marvel-specific costume on and around Halloween.

In other words, Avengers, assemble!

This is just the tip of the All Hallows Eve iceberg when it comes to Halloween prep. From my family to yours, have a safe and great time.

And don’t worry about nailing every detail.

It’s a lot of explaining to do.

Josh Farnsworth is a husband, father of goofballs Cooper and Milo, goofball himself, and award-winning writer and columnist living in Worcester. He can be reached for column ideas at