The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween story

Molly Segner, Staff Writer

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In order to muster my inner October Spirit, I often watch classic Halloween movies in preparation for the upcoming holiday. This past weekend I was scrolling through the TV guide and settled on watching the 31 Nights of Halloween Marathon on freeform, just in time to catch “The Nightmare before Christmas,” an iconic holiday movie… but what holiday is it for?

I know, I know, with Christmas in the title it’s hard to believe this animated movie is considered a Halloween film. In fact the debate over whether this movie should be considered Halloweeny or Christmasy has been ongoing since its beginning in 1993. I’m personally on team Halloween. 

For starters, the majority of the movie takes place in Halloween Town, with the main character being Jack Skellington, aka the Pumpkin King, who travels to Christmas town for only two brief trips. If I were directing a Christmas movie, I think my main character would be Rudolph or Santa or even The Nutcracker, not a pumpkin, something clearly associated with Halloween. 

Halloween Town is dark, gloomy, and frankly a little spooky for someone (like myself) who isn’t a die-hard scary movie fan. The music in the movie is primarily slow, somber, and puts you in the blues. If “The Nightmare Before Christmas” was a true Christmas movie, the music would have bells, chimes, and an upbeat rhythm.

Now let’s take a look at the plot. Jack Skellington grows tired of only celebrating Halloween year after year, and stumbles upon Christmas Town. When Jack tries to explain Christmas at the Halloweentown Town Hall meeting, all the creatures want to hear about spooky or yucky aspects of Christmas and are disappointed by the cheer and brightness of the Holiday. Jack has big ambitions to transform Halloween Town into a Christmas Town. He assigns all the creepy creatures in his town jobs like making presents, creating reindeer, and crafting a sleigh for him to ride. 

I know, I know, with Christmas in the title it’s hard to believe this animated movie is considered a Halloween film. In fact the debate over whether this movie should be considered Halloweeny or Christmasy has been ongoing since its beginning in 1993. I’m personally on team Halloween”

— Molly Segner

The creatures of Halloween town ultimately ruin Christmas. During the movie they are diminishing Christmas with creepy gifts, bony reindeer, and kidnapping Santa Claus and taunting him with Oogie Boogie, the Boogie Man. For example, one little boy gets a dark skull with bugs and hairs crawling this way and that because all of Santa’s real gifts were replaced by gifts created in Halloween Town. People report calls to the police of getting “attacked by Christmas presents.” 

The movie’s action packed ending entails Christmas Town officials trying to shoot down the imposter Santa Claus who is “mangling the joyous holiday.” Meanwhile, the Boogie Man back in Halloween town nearly kills Santa. Violence in a Halloween movie, sure, but violence in a Christmas movie? I think not.

Sally, Jack’s quiet admirer, is the only one who understands that the combination of Halloween and Christmas would be disastrous. As Sally held a dead flower, it turned into a Christmas tree and seconds later it catches on fire and destroys the cheerful tree. 

After ruining Christmas, Jack returns to Halloween Town and faces the truth that he inevitably ruined Christmas. Jack learns his lesson that he belongs in Halloween Town for a reason, and there’s no point in trying to change that. Jack says he can’t wait for the next Halloween, something a character in a Halloween movie would say. 

If you’re still unsure about whether The Nightmare before Christmas is a Halloween or Christmas movie, let me leave you with one last thing. When asked this exact question, the director, Henry Selick, responded “Oh boy. It’s a Halloween movie.” 

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