Crossfire: is the Nightmare Before Christmas a Halloween or Christmas movie?

Natasha Phanthavong and Aisling Barry

Making a Christmas wannabe

This is halloween, everybody make a scene” should be an insight on what Henry Selick’s claymation film The Nightmare Before Christmas entails. From a boogie man to the main skeleton himself, Jack Skellington, the movie is encapsulated with an overall spooky theme. A claim that the movie is another Christmas holiday classic, is nonsensical.

In fact, the movie made its wide world release in October of 1993, making it align perfectly with the Halloween theme. Draped in feature appearances from witches, vampires, and pumpkins, it offers three Halloween affiliated songs throughout the movie.

Although the story follows Skellington on his passion for Christmas, the roots of Halloween Town are embedded in his actions, such as switching out the thoughtful, sweet, and fun presents for a terror of gifts like shrunken head dolls for the children. With the lack of cheer flowing in the movie, the Christmas icon Santa is portrayed in a dark light of horror and is tormented by the Oogie Boogie.

This unfit matching is shown in the ending when Skellington lets go of the facade of Christmas and returns to being the Pumpkin King of Halloween. Skellington never warms up to the idea of embodying the Christmas spirit but conforming it in a more eerie tone. 

The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween-themed film through and through with a dash of Christmas elements. Even if it might have a Christmas theme, there is no ounce of holiday spirit found in this movie.   

— Natasha Phanthavong

What’s this? A Christmas movie?

The Nightmare Before Christmas may begin in Halloween Town and star its inhabitants, but it barely takes six minutes for the movie to begin bashing on the holiday of Halloween. “This is Halloween” may fill you up with spooky spirit, but Jack Skellington, our main character, quickly kills that excitement with his own dissatisfaction during “Jack’s Lament,” singing, “I grow so weary of the sound of screams, and I, Jack, the Pumpkin King, have grown so tired of the same old thing.”

It’s only after Jack discovers Christmas that his lamenting ends and the movie takes a happy turn. Halloween is forgotten and replaced with snowballs and Christmas cheer. How could this be a Halloween movie when our main character longs for Christmas instead? The idea of Christmas has consumed Jack, as seen in “Jack’s Obsession” when he sings, “But why should they have all the fun? It should belong to anyone! Not anyone, in fact, but me!” 

In addition to criticizing Halloween, The Nightmare Before Christmas is clearly set during the Christmas season. The movie begins the day after Halloween, and we see Jack take over Christmas on Christmas Eve. Maybe this isn’t your typical bright and sparkly Christmas movie, but let me remind you that The Grinch was also about a villain who stole Christmas. Make Whoville a little darker and Jack a little greener, and it’s basically the same movie.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is clearly a Christmas movie. The setting, mood, and plot are all about the festive holiday. I mean, all the proof you really need is in the title itself. It’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, not The Nightmare Before Halloween.

— Aisling Barry