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Published 13th November 2018 | OM&M News

12 crazy Christmas laws

Christmas pudding

You may remember that last year we debunked the myth that it’s illegal to eat mince pies on Christmas Day, and we confirmed that it is indeed illegal to hunt for game on the 25th December.
With Christmas fast approaching, we thought it would be fun to share some more laws (and myths!) surrounding the festive period. 

1. Is it illegal to put coins in the Christmas pudding?

The tradition of hiding a coin in your Christmas pudding on Christmas Day has been around for hundreds of years.  It is thought to bring you good luck if you are fortunate enough to find it.

In the UK the coin traditionally used was a silver ‘six pence’. The closest coin to that now is a five pence piece!

So, do be careful when tucking into your Christmas pud, in case you find a coin, and if you are lucky enough to find one, it should mean a promising 2019 awaits!

Verdict: Myth debunked

2. Is it illegal to throw snowballs?

We all dream of a white Christmas and there is every chance of us having one this year!

But some say that health and safety scrooges have enforced a law that means that it is illegal to throw snowballs.

This could not be further from the truth- it is perfectly legal and one of the best parts of a snow-day, in our opinion.

Verdict: Myth debunked

3. are shops permitted to trade on Christmas Day?

The Christmas Day Trading Act 2004 Act prohibits large shops and supermarkets trading in England and Wales from opening on Christmas Day.

The act defines a ‘large shop’ as being larger than 280 square meters in size. The law was put into place following a campaign by the USDAW (the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) who raised concerns over many retail workers working long hours over the Christmas period, often for no extra money, in the early 2000s.

In Scotland, a 2007 act stopped ‘large shops’ from trading on New Years Day.

Verdict: Law, but only for larger shops

4. Is it illegal for Pawnbrokers to open on Christmas Day?

The Pawnbrokers Act 1787 prohibited pawnbrokers from opening for trade on Christmas Day.

So, if you were gifted with expensive jewellery and you wanted to pawn it for some quick Christmas money, you would have to wait until at least the 26th December.

However, this law no longer stands. While many shops do close on Christmas Day, the only time a pawnbroker will be prohibited to open, is if it is a very large shop over the size of 280 sq. m. (refer to the trading law above).

Verdict: Myth debunked

Christmas tree5. can i transport my Christmas tree on top of my car?

Choosing a real Christmas tree and taking it home is an annual tradition for millions of people each year.

But according to research carried out in 2017, just 7% of adults in the UK know the rules for transporting their Christmas tree home.

While it does not specifically mention Christmas trees, rule 98 in the Highway Code states that drivers must not overload their vehicle.

A dangerous condition clause in The Under Road Traffic Act 1988 also states that drivers must not use their vehicle in circumstances where the weight, position or distribution of its loads is dangerous and not secure.

This means that having your Christmas tree hanging out of your boot, across or securing it to your roof without a roof rack could lead to a fine or being pulled over by the police.

Be sure to check your manufacturers guide for the maximum weight your vehicle can carry. It may be simpler to just have it delivered!

Verdict: Law, depending on how you transport it

6. are my outdoor Christmas LIGHTS legal?

Actually, yes. Potentially.

Hanging outdoor Christmas lights can cause a split in opinion at the best of times. How early is too early? When should you take them down? How far is too far?

Whatever your opinion, people all over the world love to decorate the outside of their homes in illuminations around this time of year.

But there is actually a 1990 law in the UK called the ‘statutory nuisance’ law that means if any complaints are made about artificial light being too bright, local councils are obligated to investigate.

Your lovely Christmas light display could be deemed a statutory nuisance if it interferes with the enjoyment or use of another’s home or other premises, or if it is capable of causing injury or affecting health.

Verdict: Law. Enjoy your lights but consider your neighbours. Bah humbug!

Panotmime7. Is it illegal to throw sweets to a pantomime audience?

There was quite a bit of uproar when a panto stopped throwing out sweets to the audience because there were concerns of hurting audience members and being liable for any injuries.

However, recognised health and safety bodies in the UK say that there is nothing wrong in this harmless fun, and that the likelihood of hurting an audience member is extremely low.

So, if you are wondering if you are allowed, the answer is ‘Oh yes you can!’.

Verdict: Myth debunked

8. Could Christmas ever be banned?

It already has been! In the past, at least.
In 1647, after the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell banned all types of festivities including the celebration of Christmas. The law was lifted in 1660.

Verdict: Repealed law, but it is possible. We doubt this would happen, though!

9. IS IT ILLEGAL TO USE my indoor Christmas lights without testing them each year?

Certainly not, especially in your own home.
Many companies believe that they need to test their lights annually – or even that they are against health and safety law altogether.

This is not true. Lights in the workplace should be checked for obvious damage before being used, but they do not need a PAT (Portable Appliance Test) each year.
The same common sense applies for lights in your home. There are no laws on how often you should test them – just take precautions and do not leave them on while you are outside of the home.

Verdict: Myth debunked

10. Is it illegal to set off my own fireworks on New Year’s Eve?

No, and in fact you are allowed to set off fireworks for a longer period of time than on bonfire night.
UK law states that you are permitted to set off fireworks between 7am and 1am on New Year’s Eve, versus 7am to midnight for fireworks night.
The 1am cut-off also stands for Diwali and Chinese New Year.
You are only allowed to buy your fireworks and sparklers between the dates of 26th-31st December during the Christmas period. If you want to get them any earlier, you can also buy them between the 15th October and 10th November.

Verdict: Myth debunked, but check with your council for local rules on fireworks.

11. Is it illegal to keep my Christmas decorations up past a certain date?

If you live in Maine in the United States, then yes!
Over there, it is actually illegal to keep your Christmas lights up past the 14th January.
Maybe that is where The Grinch resides?!

Verdict: Law, but not in the UK!

Christmas decorations12. Is it illegal for workers to put up Christmas decorations in the office?

It is becoming increasingly common to hear stories of employers banning their staff from jazzing up their office in preparation for Christmas for health and safety reasons.

There is no legislation in the UK, although companies are allowed to make their own rules.

As long as staff are provided with the correct equipment such as step ladders and do not breach health and safety rules, there is no reason why staff can’t get into the Christmas spirit with tinsel and the works.

Verdict: Myth debunked

So there you go! That should clear up some common myths and genuine laws surrounding Christmas time.
Remember, the law is here to protect you, not to ruin your Christmas. Eat, drink and be merry.
Merry Christmas from all of us at Osborne Morris & Morgan.

Merry Christmas
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