Ages 11 and under
Male and Female
Remember those old stories and nursery rhymes your parents would always read to you on Christmas Eve? Right before you would head up to your beds awaiting the arrival of Old Saint Nick, books and television specials would tell you in the form of wondrous toy-like models what would happen as you were snugly asleep. You may have felt that you knew all along what went on across the North Pole every night before Christmas, but what if I told you that there was one night when Halloween decided to interfere?
The Nightmare Before Christmas has remained in our hearts as the common ground met between two drastically different holidays. The art style used by the collaborative minds of Tim Burton and Henry Selick has the feel of specials like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer or Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town. Old Pumpkin King Jack Skellington, the spirit of Halloween, may have felt that making two holidays into one was the way for him to change for once, but at the end of this rushed yet captivating experience, he learns the importance of self-satisfaction.
By the end of the Pumpkin King’s journey to add a dose of Halloween into Christmas, we the companions of his quest witness fascinating characters including an ultraviolet casino-crazy bogeyman voiced by Ken Page, a literal two-faced mayor, a ghoul whose hat acts like a nesting doll for his smaller selves, a clown with a removable face, an undead child with his eyes stitched shut, and a ragdoll creation stuffed with leaves.
Then each character has their own distinct motion: Jack, being the skeleton he is, stiltedly struts with emphasis on his spider-like limbs, as Sally the Frankenstein creation always appears delicate with the way she plucks flower petals in her lonesome among the bizarre citizens of Halloween Town.
However little sense their created world makes, it is made up for miraculously by the explosive imagination of what we see, almost as if Halloween and Christmas were meant to be together. Minor mesh-ups such as Christmas lights in the shape of a spider-web, or a snowflake trimmed in the shape of an arachnid, or skeleton reindeer, inspire the eerily beautiful art form of stop-motion animation.
Then of course, what more to create the magical world of holiday spirit than a majestically demented musical score by Danny Elfman? His lyrics may come from the intelligence of a child, but the sounds also capture the spellbinding nature of one.
For all who remembered those days of watching televised Christmas specials before the days of cable, The Nightmare Before Christmas is the ideal call back to those footy-pajama days. For all who are still learning about the world, the storybook feel is enough to capture their imagination. The lens looked upon in this particular interpretation of the holidays is a bit too close to other Americanized retellings that focus only on European backgrounds, but the delightful feel will land on all who lay an eye and an ear to the tale told by Pumpkin King.
So even after a near-quarter century since this picture came to light, it guarantees a scary Christmas to all, and to all a daft night!
We all love our holidays, so much, we have given them each a rich culture in and of themselves. Each family has their own set of family traditions for every Thanksgiving, Christmas (or whatever you may celebrate instead), and New Year’s. For everyone who loves to Santa it up on Christmas or spook it up on Halloween, the interests of one with autism can be much more distinct.
Someone on the autism spectrum may keep their belief in Santa Claus much longer than other kids their age. Another may always want to go trick or treating by himself because a group of kids is too noisy for him. Some other child with ASD may be extremely picky and limiting as to what he wants to eat on Thanksgiving. Most would likely have to go away from the crowd after some time in order to keep his nerves together. But whatever the case may be, every child and adult on the autism spectrum has some limitation when it comes to holidays.
Six-Word Lessons for Autism Friendly Workplaces, Lesson #80: Interruptions Can Be Hard to Handle.
Yes, a holiday always means a change in routine. I remember getting so impatient every Thanksgiving whenever my family went to another family members’ or friends’ house. I never knew when we were going to go, so I would always go off from the pack and watch TV until it was time. Talking with others was simply not an interest for me.
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #13: They Just Want to Be Alone.
Or take Christmas, where either we were leaving to see family or family was coming to visit us. It always meant a complete one-eighty on routine, which naturally got unsettling in its unpredictability.
Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic, Lesson #31: On Vacation, they Need Time Alone.
Yet I was actually okay with holidays like New Year’s and Halloween, because I knew what to expect from each: on New Year’s I stay up until midnight, on Halloween I dress up and go door-to-door for candy.
But this doesn’t mean that I completely hated Thanksgiving and Christmas. I still got very much into the culture of those holidays. The bright red and green colors and jolly old music always put me in a happy, wintery mood, and watching seasonal Christmas specials was a huge plus. For years my family always enjoyed watching Christmas-themed movies such as A Christmas Story, Elf, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. We even quote from the last of the films all year-round, even to this day, telling each other to “stay focused!” and to take things “one step at a time!”
Therefore, I did enjoy these holidays, just not the social part of them. But it was through the personal enjoyments that I was able to find common ground with my other family, and create bonds with them that are still strong to this day.
However, another issue that can come around for someone on the autism spectrum during this time of year is the overexposure to things they are sensitive to. This can include loud noises, extreme tastes from different foods, bright lights, and people everywhere.
Six-Word Lessons on Female Asperger Syndrome, Lesson #61: Aspies Experience Hyper and Hypo Senses.
So if there is an expected family gathering, expect lots and lots of attempted hugs. If you’re walking through the city on Christmas Eve, expect lots of flashing lights, music playing, caroling, shoving into each other to get the hottest sale at Macy’s, and trekking through snow. If you’re having dinner as a family, expect a finicky response to grandma’s new experimental side dish. The issues when autism and holidays collide can go on and on, but what I covered are simply the basics.
- Use holiday specials or other means as a ways of connecting with your child when you feel the need to include him. Wanting to get involved in family traditions is not natural for somebody on the spectrum, so finding that common ground is a key starting point.
- Give your autistic child time alone when he needs it. This is essential to his happiness and quality of interaction when he is ready to speak with your friends and relatives.
- Try your best to give a clear scheduled plan as to what the week will look like over the holidays. It may not be followed exactly, as things are always coming up and getting canceled suddenly, but laying out a written plan will at least make your child more relaxed.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see reviewed, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
11 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Digital image. Oh my Disney. Disney. Web. <https://ohmy.disney.com/movies/2015/06/03/11-things-you-didnt-know-about-the-nightmare-before-christmas/>.