With Christmas around the less than a week away, it is once again time for the annual Insights list of odd Christmas laws and cases. Drawn from Australia, the United States and United Kingdom, these Christmas laws range from the pragmatic to downright puzzling. Test your knowledge of strange ways to fall foul of the legal grinch this silly season.
We are not amused…on Christmas Day
In Western Australia, it is illegal by statute to partake in ‘public entertainment or amusement’ on Christmas Day, Good Friday or Sundays if money is being made from the event. While the government may make an exception, the minister responsible can still ban all forms of paid Sunday entertainment. The 1979 law is certainly one way of keeping Christmas charitable.
The Puritan Grinches who Banned Christmas
In 1645, the puritans of England removed Christmas as a national holiday. In 1659, puritans of New England took their anti-Christmas fervour a step further, banning Christmas celebrations entirely. Contravention of this law incurred a penalty of five shillings, and included any person avoiding work or feasting.
This ban persisted for decades. Indeed, Cotton Mather, an influential New England church leader, railed against the merrymaking so common to Christmas, saying, "I hear of a Number of young People of both Sexes belonging, many of them, to my Flock, who have had on the Christmas night, this last week, a Frolick, a revelling Feast, and Ball, which discovers their Corruption, and has a Tendency to corrupt them yet more."
The ban persisted for centuries, with some parts of Boston keeping churches closed as late as the 1930s.
O Christmas Tree – not this year
Festooning an unsuspecting fir tree with tinsel, trinkets and baubles is a well-loved Christmas tradition. However, in Philadelphia, this festive act could get you fined $300. The law against Christmas trees came into force in 1978 and had less to do with a legislative Grinch and more to do with concerns around fire hazards. In the deep of a Philadelphia winter, its brownstones and apartment blocks are hubs of central heating. Throw a fir tree into the living room, dry it out via central heating for a week – and it’s perfect kindling. The ban on Christmas trees affects residents who live in an apartment block or brownstone with three or more dwellings – an estimated 157000 homes.
No shopping on Christmas Day
In 2004, the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed an Act preventing shops over 3000 square feet from opening on Christmas Day in England and Wales. The Act was introduced in response to a vocal campaign from religious groups and workers unions, who opposed the increasing number of major retailers, such as Woolworths, trading on Christmas Day. Scotland followed suit with a similar law in 2007, which also upheld the sanctity of New Year’s Day
“Merry Christmas” Bill
Texas Governor Rick Perry ushered in a bill protecting the right of Texan students to say ‘Merry Christmas’ with impunity. Dubbed the ‘Merry Christmas’ bill, the 2013 law also protected other well-known symbols of Christmas, such as the nativity scene, provided other religions and a secular symbol are also present.
“It’s a shame that a bill like this one I’m signing is even required,” said Governor Perry, who signed the bill into law in June 2013.
Don’t eat that Christmas mince pie – it’s illegal!
If you are celebrating Christmas in England, you may want to give the traditional Christmas mince pie a pass. Though seldom enforced, it is technically illegal to eat Christmas mince pie. This law harkens back to the puritanical era, during which the mince pie was considered to represent the decadence inherent in Christmas revelry. For those of you who would rather not tempt the long arm of the law, you can always jump across the border to Scotland or Wales, where no such statute was ever passed.
Citizens of Indiana, you can now buy alcohol at Christmas
For as long as most citizens of Indiana could remember, a boozy Christmas needed to be coordinated in advance. However, thanks to the ruling of Governor Mike Pence, it is now legal for businesses to sell liquor on Christmas Day. The bill overturned a state provision that prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages from 3am on the 25th December to 7am on the 26th December.
From all of us here at Insights, we wish you happy holidays and a great 2019!
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