When I first saw The Nightmare Before Christmas it was around during December when most series on free-to-air TV in Australia start to end for the year and take a break until near the end of January the next year. During this time most of the movies are Christmas themed but The Nightmare Before Christmas didn't seem like that at first.

About Halloween:

About Christmas:

  • Jack was bored doing Halloween and after discovering it, wanted to do Christmas and most of the movie was Jack learning, preparing and doing Christmas
  • Jack tries very much to explain Christmas to the residents of Halloween Town in which everything isn't all fights and scares
  • from Jack's perspective his presents weren't bad but rather he focused on the nice box rather than the item inside like in the Town Hall Song he says the point is not to know what's in it and dismisses their guessing (in a way reinforced in the second chapter of Halloween Town in Kingdom Hearts 2 where Jack laments on the ruined boxes while he stepped on a toy that fad fallen out ignoring it)
  • The Movie's climax was very much about saving Christmas much like most Christmas Movies

So I am wondering, was The Nightmare Before Christmas meant to be a Halloween or Christmas Movie?

  • 36
    Does it have to be either exclusively?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 11:26
  • I agree with @NapoleonWilson. While there are valid answers to the question, I don't think we have to classify the movie. Last year I watched it around Halloween, this year in the weeks before Christmas.
    – Ian
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 11:34
  • *board <> bored
    – sirjonsnow
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 13:58
  • 6
    I'd say both :) That's the beauty of it
    – Barranka
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 17:47
  • 11
    I heard its a base unit conversion joke. Oct 31 = Dec 25. As in 31 in Octal is 25 in Decimal
    – exussum
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 21:40

5 Answers 5


According to the film's director Henry Selick, it's supposed to be a Halloween Movie.

According to The Daily Mail

Henry Selick, 64, who directed the 1993 film recently spoke about its themes at a Q&A at the Telluride Horror Show in Colorado. He was asked whether the film is a Halloween or Christmas movie. Henry explained that, while Christmas plays a factor in the story, at the end of the day, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a story about Halloween

And from Entertainment Weekly

“It’s a Halloween movie,” Selick responded, finally putting the debate to rest.

Why? According to this transcript the director stated:

"It's a Halloween movie," he said, definitively. He acknowledged that a lot of people liked the Christmas Town stuff waaaaay better than the Halloween Town ("They love Santa and say he's all-powerful," he said), but he had to tell the truth: this is a movie about Halloween, and the people of Halloween, and how they react to something like Christmas.


We can take the director's (Henry Selick) own word on this. From dailymail.co.uk

During the Q&A a little girl asked the director whether the animated film was a Christmas or Halloween movie, according to Hypable, to which he said 'Oh boy. It's a Halloween movie.'

Henry then went on to explain that while Christmas plays a factor in the story, at the end of the day, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a story about Halloween, the citizens of Halloween Town and their reactions to the Christmas holiday.

  • 5
    Nice quote - I wish we had one from the writer, Tim Burton.
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 15:30
  • 2
    @JPhi1618 I tried a lot but got nothing yet
    – Ankit Sharma
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 16:23
  • 4
    "Is it not better to take [author's] own word?" 3 out of 4 Lit teachers say no!
    – Michael
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 0:59
  • 1
    @Michael did those 3 teachers written the film?
    – Ankit Sharma
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 3:20
  • 2
    @Michael, the death of the author. Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 11:19

According to IMDB, the movie's original US release was in time for Halloween (29 October 1993), as were its re-releases.

  • 2
    I was about to post this as an answer. And one of the main songs is untitled "this is Halloween".
    – Taladris
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 16:44
  • 3
    I think this, more than the director's intent, is the best way to tell. If it were a Christmas movie, it'd have first come out in late November or December.
    – Bobson
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 23:00
  • @Taladris the song is titled "this is Halloween". You probably meant to say entitled but that is incorrect as well.
    – Theoriok
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 9:10
  • @Theoriok: entitled, right. But I don't see why it is not correct
    – Taladris
    Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 23:38

It wasn't about either holiday. The film can be analyzed about the obsession with routines and bad habits. The movie is a scrutiny of the commercialization of the Holidays in general. You have two universes completely dedicated to the pursuits their holiday derives. The people of Halloween town despite their stoicism and over contentment are miserable and depressed. And a new pursuit, Christmas, motivates their new resolve, even though they have no understanding of the tradition. This marks the observance of how secular societies adopt various holidays with no understanding of how they originated or what they're celebrating. Which is shown by Jack's ignorance of gift giving and decorum, the result of which nearly ruins Christmas in the real world.

The film also critiques the corporate-ization of holidays in general. Namely the two largest of the year where heavy purchase and decoration are paramount; and the sore expectations children place on both. In the end Jack nearly ruins Christmas by mutilating the kids holiday with failure to get what they want. And the failure to adapt against status quo. Jack Skellington is otherwise a successful and important figure whom by his poor interpretation of Christmas makes society believe Santa has turned "oddly irrational" and seeks to express the same Christmas feelings having his citizens quickly engage in manufacture in products the children don't even want or need. The film is typical of Tim Burton's ongoing, cynical commentary on contemporary American culture, particularly consumer culture. The film also discusses other big business critiques in the film, including the unemployment of local workers, the declining quality of mass-produced products and the marketing of consumer products to children namely the pursuit of holiday productivity. In the end, the film rebuttals that Holidays are just that Holi[day], and should be celebrated one day only and the constant pursuit of these activities endlessly and recklessly is inherently tedious, vacuous and self destructive.

The film also investigates the necessity of core family values on Children. Sally is a creation of Professor Finkelstein. In the long run Sally's respect for the Professor is minimal, the professor keeps her under lock and key sheltering her from the world as a whole. Sally keeps the professor inundated and drugged to permit her freedom. Metaphor for alcoholism and drug abuse among parents and teens.


The film was first released in October 1993 (USA cinematic release), it's a Halloween movie. Simple, huh?

It was released in Brazil in December 1993, specifically on the 24th of December. It's a Christmas movie. Simple, huh?

It was an October release in America, Japan and Argentina.

December (or November), however, was the first outing for the film in Brazil, Sweden, Australia, Hong Kong, Colombia, Hungary, Finland, The UK, Greece, Denmark, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Portugal, The Netherlands, South Korea... The list goes on.

It seems the marketing bods knew that it could be sold for either holiday, and that it would be watched on either occasion. However, the world-wide concensus appears to be that it was a Christmas movie, which would bring in the most revenue when it's in the cinemas around Christmas and after Halloween.

My conclusion, then... It's a Christmas movie

Here's a full list of releases: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107688/releaseinfo

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