Counterpoint: Is The Nightmare Before Christmas a Halloween or a Christmas Classic?

Gustavo Damian Danemann Soto, Features Editor

The Nightmare Before Christmas is undoubtedly a Halloween movie. “Christmas, along with other holidays, are just a part of the story of how Jack realizes that Halloween is his holiday,” said Senior Allie Zygmont.

A classic for all ages, The Nightmare Before Christmas deals with Jack Skellington and his discovery of other holidays, particularly Christmas. While December 25 is an important part of the plot, there’s an overwhelming amount of evidence to prove that it’s not the main holiday of the film. If Nightmare truly were a Christmas film, why would its score, animation, and color palette say otherwise?

Jack, Sally, and Oogie Boogie are popular costumes for….. you guessed it, Halloween. Plus, according to a poll made by a movie database, more people believe it to be a Halloween story than a Christmas one (

   Nightmare is set predominantly in Jack Skellington’s home town, Halloween Town, of which he is the Pumpkin King. The most popular song of the film is far and away “This is Halloween.” From this alone, Nightmare is already more of a Halloween movie than any other, even those featuring Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees. In what way could a movie with characters named Devil, Dr. Finklestein, Harlequin Demon, Big Witch, and Wolfman be considered a Christmas movie?

While the film’s plot centers around Christmas, its visual language and atmosphere, as well as its protagonist, encompass the very essence of Halloween. The purpose of Jack Skellington’s world giving Christmas a shot is largely to show just how different his practices are to Sandy Claus’. Just look at the presents Jack gives to kids: a shrunken head, a snake, a vampire teddy bear, bats, and a Jack-O-Lantern-in-a-box.

According to a box office data website, The Nightmare Before Christmas was first released on October 15, 1993. If Tim Burton (the film’s beloved co-creator) and company considered it a Christmas film, why would they release it two weeks before Halloween? And why would the film’s 2000, 2006, 2008, 2009, and 2020 re-releases all be in October? (

Zygmont isn’t the only one who feels this way. “Throughout the whole film, it’s always about Halloween. The setting, the way Jack makes Christmas, it’s all in such a Halloween fashion that it is, quite frankly, a Halloween movie,” said Sophomore Camille Barrera.

According to Cosmopolitan magazine, the film’s composer, Danny Elfman, stated in a 2019 interview that while the film deals with Christmas, for him it’s a Halloween movie. And Nightmare’s director Henry Selick admitted that it’s a Halloween movie during a 2015 Q and A at the Telluride Horror Show film festival (

Some may argue that its title alone automatically makes The Nightmare Before Christmas a Christmas movie. And sure, it contains the word “Christmas,” but what word comes before that? “Nightmare.” In the film, Halloween takes over Christmas, not Christmas over Halloween. Santa is kidnapped and replaced by a skeleton man that has a ghost puppy as his pet and a humanoid ragdoll as a love interest. Doesn’t sound very holly or jolly, right?

Consider the fact that the film was co-written by the one and only Tim Burton, a director known for Corpse Bride, Sleepy Hollow, Beetlejuice, and Frankenweenie, all of which carry the same dark, fantastical undertones as The Nightmare Before Christmas.

By the end of the film, Jack realizes that he’s just right as he is and should not try to emulate Christmas, as that’s not his strong suit. Jack comes full-circle, ending in Halloween Town, which clarifies that the beloved spooky time of the year is the thematic core of the film. If all of these elements don’t add up to a Halloween movie, what does?