the night’s fare before christmas


For some it is It’s a Wonderful Life, or Miracle on 34th Street, or A Charlie Brown Christmas, still others it’s National Lampoon’s Christmas, or A Christmas Story. For our family the annual holiday film is Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).

Every Christmas Eve we get in pajamas, collect the finger foods, and settle in front of the screen for this Henry Selick directed film. Since Natalya was old enough for this stop-animated delight, we fall beneath its musical and albeit morbid thrall. It’s Danny Elfman driven soundtrack is one of the earliest holiday albums to be heard in the house. We all start singing, on cue. And we still laugh and sigh in the same places. In a certain light, this might come across as a bit creepy. I know we’ve gotten strange looks when we weren’t home for Christmas Eve.

Family, ever eager to share in each other’s traditions, try to play along. I think they (for the most part) find it awful. One year, in the spirit of exchange, we sat down with Grandpa to watch his family tradition of It’s a Wonderful Life. By this time, I believe Natalya had seen a reasonable portion of Rear Window or North by Northwest so she knew who Jimmy Stewart was. She wasn’t terribly impressed, not appropriately enthralled anyway. Once home we began to subject her to classic films. To each their own. And this is one tradition we feel we own, as a family. It makes us want to stay in and be our silly strange selves together, rethinking invitations elsewhere for that one night, Christmas Eve.

This year, we will shop the appetizer recipes for a menu and put on our pajamas with care. Sean will recite the opening alongside the narrator and we will all launch into song with a fervor usually reserved for the last leg of a road trip—somewhat manic and at the top of our lungs. I can’t wait.


“Making Christmas”


this post was a part of The 2011 Virtual Advent Tour. Check out the other blogs on this tour for more holiday treats.

18 Comments Add yours

  1. sprite says:

    I admit the first time I saw Nightmare before Christmas I was unimpressed. However, I rewatched it last year and can now see its appeal. I don’t know that it will ever boot out my favorites at the top of the list, but I’m happy to give it space in my holiday season.

    1. L says:

      My oldest brother always loved this film and I was past the stage of wondering what he watched; though over the shoulder while passing through the living room, I’d seen this film and thought–“Really?” Now I look forward to a time when his own daughter is a little older and we can sit down and all watch it together–though I get the feeling Miss Ruby is not going to be terribly impressed.

      What are your favorites?

  2. Carl V. says:

    The Nightmare Before Christmas is a truly wonderful film. We watch it pretty much annually and it never fails to thrill. Love the music and the characters. And like any film that one watches over and over again, there are an ever shifting group of favorite parts to look forward to. I especially enjoy all the parts with Sally, and “Kidnap the Santy Claws” song is one of my favs.

    I’ve often commented that the opening number coupled with Jack’s song when he first gets to Christmas land is shot like one of those classic musicals and it is so impressive.

    We are a family that loves all of the traditional Christmas films plus some of the more contemporary classics. A favorite is Elf. Zooey Deschanel is such a cutie and I adore her singing voice. And it is such a sweet movie. We enjoy Its a Wonderful life and Miracle on 34th Street. We are sure to watch While You Were Sleeping and You’ve Got Mail, which we consider Christmas movies because parts of them take place over the holidays.

    White Christmas is a must. Love the music and the dancing. We also try to get in a viewing of the Jimmy Stewart classic, Shop Around the Corner which is what was remade as You’ve Got Mail. Those are fun to watch back to back. Little Woman, with Susan Sarandon and Wynona Ryder is another film we consider a Christmas one and watch it every year. And I can never miss the opportunity to watch those old Rankin Bass movies, Santa Claus is Comin to Town and Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. And we also love A Muppet Christmas Carol. Really just about any kind of musical gets us going. Let’s see, I’m sure there are more that we watch every year. Family Man. Charlie Brown Christmas. A Christmas Story. Love Actually.

    I always look forward to our family movie watching this time of year. So many great experiences for us to return to. So glad you are proudly defending and cherishing your family traditions! It is one of the fun things about being a parent, creating those traditions.

    1. L says:

      You’ve a fantastic list of holiday films!
      Elf, yes–we are Zooey fans, too. While You Were Sleeping and You’ve Got Mail are good holiday choices; because of their mention, While You Were Sleeping must be watched very very soon.

      Love Actually is one of our annual watches, no matter the season. but I have to say it has been ages since I’ve seen White Christmas. We watched Shop Around the Corner last year because we watched You’ve Got Mail and wanted N to see the earlier version. I keep putting off Little Women until we can read the book. Which should happen for real–soon–because N is working on a report on Ms. Alcott–an author whom is now getting a second look from me.

  3. Ibeeeg says:

    This is a fantastic tradition, I have forgotten about this movie – must add it to our viewing list. Our yearly movie….a must for us… Polar Express. It fits all the ages in our home, plus, we try to have a sleep over with my two young nieces so that they can partake in this movie night with us…a treat for the girls. We tend to save Polar Express for the week before Christmas.

    1. L says:

      Polar Express–very nice choice, and I see how perfect it is for the age range. when we were in Portland there was a rail that ran, you would show up in your pajamas and they’d serve hot cocoa and you would ride the train a ways. sounded like fun but we never got around to it. maybe in the nearer than later future. One of Natalya’s choir songs this year is from the Polar Express, “Believe,” so we should definitely watch it later this week, too.

  4. Kailana says:

    We should watch this movie this year. I haven’t seen it in ages, but always enjoyed it. I think the only movie we watch every year is Muppet Christmas Carol and that is usually because I stick it in and don’t leave much choice in the matter. I was thinking this year I should branch out. There are some famous Christmas movies I have never seen before… Thanks for joining in for the event this year!

    1. L says:

      I’m really glad I joined. I haven’t been commenting like I intended but I have enjoyed reading everyone’s posts; definitely help with the spirit of the season, and the daily treat idea was genius, because they are a treat!

      Muppet Christmas Carol–marvelous. Sean is determined we will add this to the repertoire this year (as it has been a while–N hasn’t even seen it (yikes!))

  5. betty says:

    I think it sounds like a wonderful tradition your family has! I’ve never seen this movie, but I know it is a favorite of a lot of people (you and your family included). I think whatever movie or event that helps to make lasting memories around the holidays is wonderful indeed! Enjoy! Wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas!


    1. L says:

      thank you! and merry christmas to you as well!

  6. Marg says:

    I don’t think I have seen this movie before. We don’t have a movie that we watch every Christmas. I think we are missing out by not doing so! Will have to go and ask my son what his favourite christmas movie is and see if we can at least watch it this year. We did watch Polar Express last night with my sister and her in-laws and my nephews so that was fun!

    Thanks so much for joining in with the tour this year! I hope you had fun!

    1. L says:

      I did have fun thank you!

      Polar Express is a great movie; it’s magical and just flat-out pretty! I think just snuggling in family and friends for any film with a holiday theme this time of year makes for wonderful memories and another fun thing to do together each season.

  7. We don’t have a family favorite, unfortunately. The guys all hate my personal fave, It’s a Wonderful Life (for various reasons, all reasonable) but I still love it every bit as much as I did the first time. I’ve ever seen The Nightmare Before Christmas. We’ll have to give it a go. Nice post!

    1. L says:

      thank you! Little wonder there are so many variations in holiday films as we all find different things to value. In some ways, we cling to the sentimental aspect that “The Nightmare” has become. I think another go with “It’s a Wonderful Life” and Natalya will appreciate it more; meanwhile, we can send her off to bed and enjoy it for ourselves.

  8. I have never seen the movie. IDK why or how it slipped past me. I know I would enjoy it. I must rent it this season. I bet it will be on cable too. Thank you for reminding me of it.
    I was a sucker for It’s a Wonderful Life (still am). I think ppl can be pretty mean (not all, just some) so this movie really gives me hope for humankind. I want EVERYONE to watch it at least one time. I sound like a Scrooge huh? lolz.
    Thanks for the cool post..
    Advent Tour Day 11

  9. Court says:

    Oh, that sounds like so much fun! I haven’t seen that movie in years, but you’ve certainly inspired me to look into finding a copy of it for myself this Christmas. 🙂

  10. I wasn’t terribly impressed the first time I saw it, but this movie is on my re-watch list because I ADORE Tim Burton. Big gooey lovely hugs for him and his movies. I love this tradition. Sing it proud!

  11. Suey says:

    That sounds wonderful!

thoughts? would love to hear them...

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