Disclaimer: Don’t take this too seriously.
Jack Skellington is not your typical Christmas movie hero. Not because he’s a skeleton. And not because he is the horrifying Pumpkin King of Halloween. But because he is neither a scrooge nor an outcast. Every Christmas movie needs a scrooge or an outcast to learn the true meaning of Christmas. But Jack is the beloved and magnanimous tyrant of his dark kingdom.
Still, Jack comes close to falling for the absurd “spirit of Christmas” trap. When he stumbles into the Land of Christmas, he sees the lights, the snow, the elves busy at work. “What a wonderful thing!” Jack thinks, “This feels nice!” So Jack decides to make Christmas his own. He enlists the help of his monsters and ghouls to make presents, build skeleton reindeer, and recreate the sounds of the season. Jack will himself take on the role of the dreaded Sandy Claws! What could be more perfect? But something isn’t quite right. Something is missing…
And this is a trope we’ve seen before in every single Christmas movie ever. There’s something special about “the season.” Is it Jesus, the Christ, come to liberate his people? No, no, of course not! We’ve all seen enough Christmas movies to know the answer. Giving! We shout at the screen. Selflessness! Family? Togetherness! That’s the spirit of Christmas! C’mon!
But Tim Burton is no fool. He may be many things (including a master of nightmares) but he’s no fool. He knows the “spirit of the holidays” is nothing but an opiate of nostalgia, endorphins we get when we buy and receive things. Jack Skellington learns this too. If Christmas were really about giving, than he ought to be welcomed warmly for his genuine (if severely misguided) attempt to spread Christmas cheer. But Jack has a tyrannical counterpart in secular Christmas. And it isn’t Santa. It’s us, the consumers of candy and presents. Some several billion strong, we can be a terrible force. Fortunately, we are easily placated and gladly sing the praises of Sandy Claws and the material wealth he bestows. But our favor can evaporate in a moment! Don’t believe this? Give unsatisfactory presents to children and watch their faces turn. Whence Christmas magic then? Poor Jack discovers this the hard way, getting shot down for simply trying to spread happiness.
When the facade of Holiday spirit crumbles, Jack returns to what he knows best: spreading chaos and terror. And who can blame him? If Christmas only offered sharing, togetherness, and a vague sense of holiday cheer, we all ought to just hang skeletons and fill our houses with bats and spiders. To me, that sounds a lot more fun than watching creepy elves and anthropomorphic snowmen prance around with caribou.
But, whether we choose to decorate our trees with tinsel or burn them to the ground in homage to our leader Jack Skellington, something more terrifying than the Pumpkin King comes on Christmas. The God-Man, the creator of the universe, incarnate. He comes with a sword to divide the earth and a fire to burn away its chaff! So let the straw in the manger kindle this blaze! Let the elves flee in fear! Let the snowmen melt before his terrible flames! And let Sandy Claws and the Pumpkin King both see the true Lord of Christmas and let them tremble in shock and awe!
Kidnap the Sandy Claws
Throw him in a box
Bury him for ninety years
Then see if he talks!
Kidnap the Sandy Claws
Tie him in a bag
Throw him in the ocean
Then, see if he is sad!
Kidnap the Sandy Claws,
beat him with a stick
Lock him up for ninety years,
see what makes him tick!