If you’ve been put in charge of children for whatever reason this time of year, especially this close to Christmas and Christmas Eve, there’s a chance that you’ll be required to read to them a certain rhyming holiday classic. The Night Before Christmas has been the unchallenged champion of stories to be read on Christmas Eve, except maybe some stuff from the bible I guess, but that stuff doesn’t have Santa in it, and I’m not sure how I could go that route for this post with out some mostly unintentional blasphemy.
It’d be nice to shake things up a bit with a different story to read for your kids at Christmas time, and when I say different, I mean different. To add a really unique flavor to this match-up, I’ve decided to pitch the classic Night Before Christmas against a different sort of book, one that some younger folks, myself included, believe should be considered a Christmas classic. And a Halloween classic. I’m talking about the original book The Nightmare Before Christmas by Tim Burton. Can this relatively new up and comer take on the old reigning champ? I read both and tried to work through my feelings on which was better and for what reasons, a tricky process but one I undertook for the sake of Christmas.
There were some obvious differences between the two books that made me wonder if I could even compare them. Night was just so old. Nightmare had the classic movie companion that almost completely overshadowed it in popularity. Night had so many different illustrated versions and editions to choose from while Nightmare had only one, but that one version is done in a very popular Tim Burtonesque fashion that could make it pull ahead in the art department. Still, focusing closely on the stories themselves made it easier to compare the two.
Nightmare has much more of a plot than Night. The classic Night Before Christmas is really just a story about a guy waking up to Santa making too much noise breaking into his house. Nightmare has an echo of that too, when Jack delivers a bunch of adorably horrifying presents for kids. This is obviously supposed to be a parody/homage to the original classic. There’s not nearly as much set up and exploration of Halloween Town as in the movie we all know. Sally the love interest and her story line did not exist. It made me miss the movie a great deal, honestly, though the book itself was a still a very cute homage to a classic, with some fun and original ideas, and the narrower plot does make it much more of a Christmas story than a Halloween one.
Night having a simpler story line isn’t necessarily bad though, not for a kid’s story. In a picture book, sometimes having a few fun rhymes to accompany nice, fun pictures is all kids need to enjoy reading a story. There are certainly plenty of beautiful artistic renditions of the story. You can pick pretty much anyone you like and keep it until it becomes a family heirloom, which is kind of nice.
All things considered, if I personally had to pick between the two, I would read Night Before Christmas to the kiddies and let them watch Nightmare Before Christmas, because as much I like the Nightmare book, it doesn’t have all the catchy songs I loved as a kid. Is this cheating? I don’t think so. You get double the Christmas this way, and an extra dash of Halloween besides.