Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Let’s Settle This: Is ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ a Halloween or Christmas Movie?

Halloween or Christmas, Halloween or Christmas.

A long-standing argument, as well-worn as “Is Die Hard a Christmas movie”? Well, we here at The Mary Sue want to settle this argument once and for all, as the movie has its 30th anniversary this month: Is The Nightmare Before Christmas a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie?

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Why The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween Movie

-Kimberly Terasaki

Jack Skellington standing in front of a glowing moon in 'The Nightmare Before Christmas.'
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

The Nightmare Before Christmas takes place primarily in Halloweentown. The opening sequence is all about Halloween, with the townspeople celebrating the holiday and then immediately getting started on planning next year’s Halloween. My co-writer may argue that the majority of the movie takes place after Halloween. However, many Halloween films take place in the early hours of November 1. Hocus Pocus technically ends at dawn on November 1, but that doesn’t make it an All Saints Day movie.

Also, not every Halloween movie takes place at Halloween time. Many horror movies take place in the spring, summer, and/or winter. That doesn’t mean they aren’t Halloween films at heart. The same logic applies to release dates of films, as Hocus Pocus was released in July.

Another piece of evidence is the songs. Many of The Nightmare Before Christmas’ songs have a darker tone to connect them to Halloween. Every Halloween medley has “This is Halloween” somewhere in the mix. Meanwhile, you are unlikely to find any Nightmare Before Christmas songs on a Christmas album (save for Pentatonix, and that’s mostly because they do a Christmas album every year and are running out of songs to use). Even when songs are about Christmas, like “What’s This?” or “Making Christmas,” the tone and lyrics of the song keep them firmly rooted in the world of Halloween.

Also, the whole movie is about Jack Skellington’s identity crisis, as he feels tired of being the Pumpkin King. He uses Christmas as a way of reinventing himself and bringing himself joy by “discovering” something new. However, Jack’s spiritual journey and his failed attempt at being “Sandy Claws” only make him more confident in his prowess as the Pumpkin King, as his attempts at being “jolly” end up scaring people.

In the end, The Nightmare Before Christmas has more in common with Coraline and other Halloween-adjacent stop-motion films than it does with the Rankin Bass stop-motion Christmas films, and director Henry Selick agrees.

Why The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Christmas Movie

-Rachel Leishman

Jack Skellington looks at a snowflake in A Nightmare Before Christmas.
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

As a Scorpio, Halloween and the “spooky season,” as it is often called, is ours. For that reason, it is one that I have very strong opinions on. I don’t think you can start to celebrate Christmas, or any holiday you celebrate in December, until mid-November. Sure, you can have your decorations up for Thanksgiving, but you’d better not start playing Mariah Carrey until after the turkey, which means that when it comes to The Nightmare Before Christmas, I do have opinions on what holiday this movie celebrates.

Set in the (sadly) fictional world of Halloweentown, the movie itself does not take place during Halloween, as its story literally starts on November 1. We start on our journey as Jack Skellington returns home from a successful Halloween scare that year, with the town all celebrating. They are all in the town square talking about what worked and what didn’t. It is the end of Halloween, presumably after midnight, meaning that it is the morning of November 1, and when Jack finds Christmas Town, it is actually November. 

So the crux of this film is 100% in November and not at all in October, so for the “CHRISTMAS STARTS ON NOVEMBER 1” crowd should agree with me. Now, for my Scorpios, who all commit to the ideal that we’re all spooky and deserve a spooky season for ourselves, there is still time between Halloween and Christmas that doesn’t have to be representative of either of the holidays. While things are scary in Halloweentown, that is because … well, we’re in Halloweentown. But even then, there are so many themes of getting ready for Christmas. 

Jack is decorating his home, he’s getting his outfit ready, and he’s discovering what Christmas means. This makes The Nightmare Before Christmas a Christmas movie, not a Halloween movie.

Why The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween and a Christmas Movie

The nightmare before christmas
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Really, we don’t see why the film cannot be seen as both a Halloween and a Christmas movie. Movies can be more than one thing. It fits perfectly well into the October through December months.

Disney also seems to agree, as they turn the Haunted Mansion in the Disney parks into The Nightmare Before Christmas for September through December. It does mean that we, as fans, can have three wonderful months of watching the film if we just embrace that it is all holidays.

Do you think The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie? Comment below!

(featured image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

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Image of Kimberly Terasaki
Kimberly Terasaki
Kimberly Terasaki is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She has been writing articles for them since 2018, going on 5 years of working with this amazing team. Her interests include Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Horror, intersectional feminism, and fanfiction; some are interests she has held for decades, while others are more recent hobbies. She liked Ahsoka Tano before it was cool, will fight you about Rey being a “Mary Sue,” and is a Kamala Khan stan.
Image of Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.