The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Christmas Movie

Illustration by Megan Rowe

Illustration by Megan Rowe

"I'm sick of the scaring, the terror, the fright.
I'm tired of being something that goes bump in the night.
I'm bored with leering my horrible glances,
And my feet hurt from dancing those skeleton dances.
I don't like graveyards, and I need something new.
There must be more to life than just yelling,'Boo!'"

-Tim Burton

This is part of a poem Tim Burton wrote before the conception of the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas. This epiphany moment encompasses the conflict of the Nightmare Before Christmas: Jack wants a change so he resorts to taking over Christmas but Christmas isn't his responsibility.

Burton should be thought of as the mind behind the movie. He wrote the poem stated before and the idea and animation is all his. The director, Henry Selick, was simply there to convey the genius of Burtons idea.

There has been a debate whether The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween or Christmas movie ever since its creation in 1993. Although it has aspects of both, I believe it should be categorized as a Christmas movie. Viewers become distracted by the dark gothic animation and feelings for Jack that they forget the movie is about protecting Christmas.

The nightmare is that Jack, a skeleton king, wants to become Santa Claus and run Christmas. Viewers sympathize with Jack because he is depressed, and overall he is a friendly loving character. We want the best for him but his aspirations are evil.

Jack’s dream is also very similar to the American Dream. No matter where you come from you can rise and become who you want to be with hard work and determination. In America, we love American dreamers. We hope for these characters to rise and reach their dreams.

These aspects of Jack make us fall in love with his character and his Halloween persona. However, all this distracts viewers from the moral of the story.

The movie is about traditional Christmas. The enemy is Jack Skeleton who thinks he can run Christmas and the hero is Santa Claus. The Nightmare before Christmas tells us we need to protect Christmas.

Sure the characters can be frightening but the fear is only used to make you savor Christmas more. The scariness of Halloween movies has the intent to scare you. However I'm arguing that the scariness in The Nightmare Before Christmas is only used as a storytelling technique. We need to look beyond the appearance of the characters and focus on the story.

Gif courtesy of

Gif courtesy of

Not everything that Americans think is meant to be scary. The Day of the Dead uses skeletons but they aren't trying to scare people. They want to commemorate their passed loved ones. There are ghosts in The Christmas Carol but we don't consider it a Halloween movie.

The robbers from Home Alone scare me. Ever since I've seen that movie I've been afraid of a home invasion. But do we consider Home Alone a Halloween movie? No because it takes place around Christmas and at the end celebrates how great Christmas is.

Tim Burton commonly creates spooky looking movies but just because they look scary does not mean they are Halloween movies. The Corpse Bride is scary as Hell, her eyeballs are gross. But that wouldn’t be considered a Halloween movie only because it’s scary. You could consider that more in the gothic genre. Edgar Allan Poe wrote spooky things, but they are not considered Halloween stories. Sure you may read them on Halloween but really he wasn't writing for Halloween. Poe was just crazy and had to let that stuff out.

At the end of the movie Jack has ruined Christmas by trying to do what Santa does best. He has become the enemy yet he isn't treated like one due to Santa being such a nice guy.

"My dear Jack," Santa said. "I applaud your intent.
I know wrecking such havoc was not what you meant.
And so you are sad and feeling quite blue,
But taking over Christmas was the wrong thing to do.
I hope you realize Halloween's the right place for you.”

The movie ends with celebrating Christmas in the real world and even in their city, Halloweentown, thanks to Santa Claus. Why would a Halloween movie end with celebrating Christmas? Santa Claus is the hero here and even fixes our American dreamer Jack’s mistakes. Even Jack becomes joyous at the end. See how great Santa is? He has cured Jack’s sad boy depression and he can now be happy with his girlfriend Sally. Thanks to getting a taste of Christmas.

So this holiday season keep your Nightmare Before Christmas VHS with your other Christmas movies. If not I guess you’ll get a lump of coal.

VoicesJakob Bermas