This post is an excerpt from my book, I Hate Christmas! How to Identify and Overcome Your Inner Christmas Villain. This is the third of the 4 parts of the book, which will be published here online to help you prepare for Christmas this year. If you’d like to get the whole book, you can get it as an ebook from Amazon here.
Jack Skellington, The Selfish
You know, I think this Christmas thing is not as tricky as it seems! But why should they have all the fun? It should belong to anyone! Not anyone, in fact, but me! Why, I could make a Christmas tree! And there’s not a reason I can find, I couldn’t have a Christmastime! I bet I could improve it, too! And that’s exactly what I’ll do!
There are a myriad of Christmas villains that have embodied a greedy thirst for possessions, attention, or some other temporal benefit for themselves. A lot of the ones I considered were T.V.-special, one-dimensional stock characters that have become, shall we say, Christmas cookie-cutter. Among the more spectacular ones were B.Z. From Santa Claus: The Movie, Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life, Heat Miser, Freeze Miser, and the other Rankin-Bass Christmas villains who wanted to stop Christmas for their own reasons.
Yet when it comes to choosing a Christmas villain that seemed to best embody the selfishness of all those villains, but was relatable, one who is converted and not conquered, and part of a story that is generally considered a classic, Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas takes the pumpkin pie.
Bored with his life as the Pumpkin King and master of the Halloween holiday, Jack wanders into Christmas town and discovers the very different trimmings and feelings the celebration of Christmas inspires. He becomes frustrated that he can’t understand any of it, even (or especially) by scientific analysis of the material trimmings and trappings.
Finally it dawns on him that Christmas could be his. He has Santa Claus kidnapped, steals his hat, has the monsters and beasts of Halloween town build a sleigh, undead reindeer, and frightful toys, and proceeds to take over Christmas.
The result, of course, is a nightmare for the world and for the simple residents of Halloween town who struggle to grasp the concepts of spreading joy, happiness, and peace. Jack’s obsession causes him to neglect his duties as leader of Halloween town. By forcing his own followers, and the world, to accept his new ownership of the holiday, he becomes a tyrant.
Jack Skellington is well-intentioned. That’s one of the reasons he’s such a great model for the selfish Christmas villain. Other selfish villains admit that money or possessions are their reasons for stealing Christmas, putting Santa out of business, or destroying the holiday. Jack thinks he’s doing it for everyone else. He really does want to give the world a jolly Christmas like they’ve never had before. No matter how he lies to himself though, it is clear from the start he is doing it for himself, out of boredom with his regular life. True to the old saying, the story of the Nightmare Before Christmas becomes a tale of good intentions paving a path to hell.
When his friend Sally has a prophetic vision of a Christmas tree bursting into flame, Jack is blind to the possibility of failure:
“That’s not *my* Christmas! *My* Christmas is filled with laughter, and joy… and this: my Sandy Claws outfit.”
You have probably heard that phrase, “My Christmas” from someone before. Perhaps even yourself. “My Christmas must have this” or “My Christmas will have that.” Or the related phrase, “It just wouldn’t be Christmas without…”
It is ironic that Jack, who is doing so many Christmas-y things, is the selfish one, contrasted to lonely, miserly Scrooge who is often portrayed as the face of Christmas greed. Yet it is the overbearing, tyrannical selfishness of a Jack-like Christmas “spirit” that drives the Grinch, and those like him, to distraction and hatred of Christmas.
It is not just hard on others. Taking ultimate responsibility for your own vision of Christmas creates an incredible pressure and even anxiety over the coming of Christmas. Trying to make the celebration of the holiday fit a certain plan sets expectations that are beyond your human ability to control. Judging the success of the holiday by how closely it ends up resembling the ideas in your head will end in misery, for yourself and those around you.
Tempering the Inner Jack Skellington
It takes hitting rock bottom for Jack to realize he’d overstepped his bounds (he is bone-headed, after all). Hopefully for the rest of us it just takes listening to what everyone, including yourself, really wants to do to celebrate Christmas and not making assumptions that you know better.
If Jack Skellington is your Christmas villain, then you need to let go. You are heaping unnecessary pressure on yourself by trying to control the Christmas celebration. You are not made to be responsible for the happiness of others, even at Christmas.
Christmas is the celebration of the reception of a gift, God’s only Son. He who holds creation in His hands could have made the first Christmas shine with all the glory and attention the wealth of the world could offer. Instead He chose a lowly and inconvenient birth. The event was glorious and important enough of its own accord; it did not need glamour and fanfare. From this truth learn to rejoice in your salvation, and let go of trying to control its memorial.
Find out what those around you really want in their celebration of Christmas. If you live with a Grinch, you are probably going to be doing a Christmas tradition inventory, because you both need it. What you may think has been bringing joy to others may only be bringing headaches. If those around you then don’t seem to be “in the spirit” you expect, you are going to be bitterly disappointed. As a result you may try harder the next time.
Truth be told, the remedy to conquering the Christmas villains is similar. Simplify. Re-examine why you are celebrating Christmas. Figure out what traditions really have meaning to you and yours and focus on those activities.
The reason for there being a common solution is because there is a common root to all Christmas villains, which is the subject of the next section, dealing with the ultimate Christmas villain archetype.
Playlist Suggestions – The Friendly Beasts, The Gift by Aselin Debison, or Good King Wenceslaus – songs that tell a story of sacrificial gifts and the giving of self.