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Breaking Bonds

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Positivity for Pagan Children

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The Nightmare After Halloween

Our Family is Different

Blessings from the Gods (Faith and Homebirthing)

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The Nightmare After Halloween

Author: Jessica Marie Baumgartner
Posted: November 3rd. 2013
Times Viewed: 8,618

So many of us grew up loving Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Parents in the Pagan community should know that it is so much more than a fun movie. When I was young, I never imagined that this strange and beautiful film would come in handy as a teaching tool for my children, but any teacher will tell you that true-life lessons can come from anywhere. My young daughters are just getting acquainted with the world and questioning everything. Holidays are no different. Unlike many of our non-Christian friends, my husband and I do not celebrate Christ-Mass. Oddly enough, it confuses people when we say we do not celebrate it. Our reasoning is simply that we are not Christian but that does not usually satisfy people. They reply, “Everybody celebrates it. It’s a cultural Holiday”. Maybe for some, but we prefer to enjoy Yule on the Winter Solstice.

Regardless of our faith, my husband and I do not want to shelter our children from other religions, but to educate. So, this year, when my daughter saw “The Nightmare Before Christmas” on Netflix I was ecstatic to show it to her. I am not sure of Tim Burton’s intentions, but there are many great comparisons and issues within it that my three-year-old loves. This film does a great job of showing how easy it is to get caught up in the materialism of something you do not know the meaning of, the importance of reaching out and exploring other ways of life in order to truly know who you are, and also why we must appreciate where we come from and the people who have been there for us.

Christmas and Commercialism: It is so easy to get swept away by decorations, sweet treats, shopping for sales, and going overboard on presents. In “Nightmare” Jack Skellington is dazzled by bright lights, candy canes, Christmas carols, and snow. All very nice elements of a meaningful holiday for some, but to someone like my daughter who knows that the holiday is supposed to be a celebration of the birth of Jesus, it seems disconnected. My three year-old doesn’t understand why Christians don’t give presents to Jesus. I think any deity would be satisfied with simple celebrations centered on family, giving, and peace…things you do not generally see in shopping malls, or experience when staring at a TV special. Jack Skellington made a big mistake in trying to celebrate a holiday he knew nothing about but at least he was truly ignorant. I do not think it was an accident that the meaning of Christmas was never discovered in “The Nightmare Before Christmas” because the movie was not about that. It was more about being true to oneself, and jabbing at society’s ignorance, all in one neatly wrapped gift.

Exploring other ways of life in order to find your self was a less obvious theme in Tim Burton’s movie, but it is a very valuable teaching tool. Halloween, known as Samhain to many of us in the Pagan community, is a very important time of year. Celebrating the lives of those lost is not a morbid, sad, ceremony for us, but an invigorating ritual that helps us appreciate life. Being that my mother-in-law recently passed away, this year’s is ever more important to my family. Thus it can be very aggravating to see Christmas decorations already making their way into stores, and for my children (as well as others) it is just confusing. Before they get to celebrate one holiday, another is attacking them. Thanksgiving is often completely swept under the rug as even the “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” is laden with Christmas songs, Santa Claus, and all forms of floats and commercials promoting the Christian December the twenty-fifth holiday.

I try to explain how exciting Christmas is for so many people and my daughter seems to understand. She wants to celebrate Halloween year round; so watching “Nightmare” helps her to reach out to that part of herself that connects her love of Samhain to some of her friends and family’s love of Christmas. Jack Skellington may have caused quite a few problems with his aggressive exploration, but in doing so, he is reminded of what he believes in and who he really is. Everyone is on a spiritual journey no matter how young or old. I am just so humbled to be a part of my children’s.

The Nightmare Before Christmas” illustrates in a fun way why we must appreciate where we come from and the people who have been there for us along the way. The entire population of Halloween Town relies on Jack and puts their trust in him. Although they do not really seem to understand his excitement over Christmas, they try to celebrate with their friend. Sally, by contrast, warns Jack, not from lack of support, but because she sees flaws in his motive. To take it farther, Jack feels the unease his new findings have imposed and does his best to help everyone understand despite the fact that he himself has yet to find the meaning behind Christmas. The simplest lesson here is family and community are important. These relationships are strong “give and take” bonds. Even at a year old, my youngest seems to have a grasp on the importance of family and friendship. And her older sister absolutely loves the connections that Jack has (especially the one he shares with his ghost dog, Zero) .

There are many ways to convey lessons to our children and I was pleasantly surprised at how easily Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” helps me to teach my children about Christmas and its similarities and dissimilarities with our own Sabbaths. This engaging movie shows how easy it can be to get caught up in the materialism of something that you do not understand, the importance of finding who you really are by reaching out and exploring other ways of life, and why we should appreciate where we come from and the people who have supported us.

Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas"


Jessica Marie Baumgartner

Location: Saint Louis, Missouri

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