The Nightmare Before Christmas: A Christmas or Halloween Movie?

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Natalie Waters

The Nightmare Before Christmas characters that are featured in the movie are shown from a Funko Pop Christmas Advent Calendar.

Natalie Waters, Photojournalist

Typically, a holiday movie will make it abundantly clear which holiday that movie is celebrating. Christmas movies are filled with boxes and bows, snow and sleighs, and happy faces in every scene. Halloween movies are generally built around fear. Characters like clowns, witches, vampires, and other mythical creatures and legends usually appear in Halloween movies. Movies like The Grinch, Home Alone, and Elf are all clearly Christmas movies. These movies take place in December, Christmas lights are strung up on every house, and presents are shown being opened on Christmas morning. Likewise, movies like Hocus Pocus, Halloween, and Scream are all Halloween movies. These films take place in either September or October, glowing jack-o-lanterns are placed on porch steps, and fake spiders are hung from webs in trees. There is one movie, however, that defies these categories, and is placed in a class of its own: The Nightmare Before Christmas.

The fact of whether The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Christmas or Halloween movie is a widely debated topic. The film’s plot follows life in Halloween Town, where most characters shown throughout the movie live. The citizens of this spooky city prepare all year to create fear and play tricks on people during the day of Halloween. Jack Skellington, a very popular figure in Halloween Town, wanders into the forest one day and comes across a peculiar place that is later known as Christmas Town. He becomes infatuated with the happiness that is present in the town, and attempts to share that feeling with the citizens of Halloween Town. This plan goes sideways, however, when the characters overtake and spread fear to the joyful holiday. Clearly, it is difficult to know which holiday this movie portrays, so let’s go through the argument for both sides:

Opinion 1: The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Christmas movie. First, the film takes place mostly during the time of Christmas, in the months November and December. During this time, Christmas trees are shown in living rooms, lights are hung up around the house, and kids show their excitement when they hurry downstairs to open gifts on Christmas morning. Reindeer fly high in the sky and sleigh bells ring all throughout the night. Characters like Santa, Mrs. Claus, and many elves appear in the movie. Kate Tachikawa (11) believes that “The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Christmas movie. I haven’t seen the film in a while, but from what I remember, many parts of the movie were about Christmas.”

From what I remember, many parts of the movie were about Christmas.”

— Kate Tachikawa

Opinion 2: The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween movie. Although most of the film takes place closer to Christmas time, the very beginning of the film takes place just after Halloween. For the main duration of the film, the characters of Halloween Town are shown in the film, much more than the Christmas characters. Skeletons can be seen playing instruments, witches are shown flying on brooms, and their cackling can be heard from a mile away. Vampires hide behind their capes and one character can even be seen taking out his brain, and another turning his head a full 360 degrees. Typical Halloween creatures are a significant part of the movie. Another aspect that adds to this argument is the fact that the Halloween characters take over the Christmas holiday. They fill presents with scary toys, which torment children once they are opened on Christmas morning. Jack Skellington, a skeleton, dresses as Santa and rides a sleigh pulled by skeleton Reindeer and his ghost dog. 

Overall, the ongoing debate about whether The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Christmas or Halloween movie will continue on for many years. No matter what side you lean toward, this Tim Burton classic is a great movie to watch year round. Whether it’s around Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, or even Easter (the easter bunny appears in one scene as well). It’s a great movie to watch any time of the year, as it can put anyone in the holiday spirit.