The twelve laws of Christmas
We love Christmas and so with the countdown to the festivities underway, we thought it would be fun to clarify, and in some cases, debunk, some laws you may have heard around certain festivities.
1. Is it illegal to eat mince pies on Christmas Day?
It was reported that in Oliver Cromwell’s England, all festive celebrations, (including consuming mince pies and Christmas puddings), were contributing towards gluttony. The festivities were made illegal as part of a fasting period, but luckily the ban was lifted when Charles II took to the throne in 1660.
Verdict: Debunking the Myth
2. Is it illegal to go Christmas carolling?
Disturbing residents with festive songs might not sound like an offence, but is it illegal to disturb people at night with a bit of Christmas cheer.
S.28 of The Town Police Clauses Act 1847 says “every person who wilfully and wantonly disturbs any inhabitant, by pulling or ringing any door bell, or knocking at any door,” is committing an offence, punishable by fine.
However, S.28 was actually repealed by the Deregulation Act 2015.
If you are out carolling and collecting money for charity, however, you will need to obtain a licence from the local authority because it is illegal to collect money or sell articles for the benefit of a charity without one.
Verdict: Repealed Law
3. Is it an offence to kill game on Christmas Day?
If you plan to be tucking into game for your Christmas lunch you will need to find it before Christmas Day.
S.3 of the Game Act 1831 states that it is indeed an offence to “Kill or take any game, or use any dog, fun, net or other engine or instrument for the purpose of killing or taking any game, on a Sunday or Christmas Day.”
4. Is it illegal to place a stamp upside down?
Could you be breaking the law if you put a stamp on upside down on one of your Christmas cards?
The Treason Felony Act 1848 says “It is an offence to do any act with the intention of deposing the monarch.”
However, the law itself does not make any reference to stamps specifically and placing a stamp upside down probably does not constitute towards offending the Queen.
Verdict: Another Myth Debunked
5. Must all employers give their employees a Christmas bonus?
Have you ever received a Christmas bonus? If you have, then you’re one of the lucky ones!
Whilst laws do exist that say employers must give their workers a bonus the size of one month’s salary, it does not apply anywhere in the UK. This bonus, known commonly as the Thirteenth Salary, is given to employees who have provided a year of service in countries such as Italy, France, Chile, Mexico and Brazil.
Verdict: Law. But not in England, I’m afraid!
6. Is it a bribe if I send or receive a gift from a client?
Any gift, at any time of year, could be considered as bribery if the gift seems like you are intending “to induce a person to perform improperly a relevant function or activity, or to reward a person for their improper performance.”
Generally, a Christmas thank you isn’t breaking the law. Companies should demonstrate honesty, integrity and fairness by communicating clear company policies to employees to ensure compliance against bribery and corruption.
7. It is illegal to delay or interfere with packages?
Millions of Christmas parcels and cards are being posted every December, all of which are protected by the Postal Services Act 2000.
This means it is illegal to open, tamper with or delay a parcel which is not addressed to you. Doing so, could also constitute as tort of conversion or trespass to goods.
8. Is it illegal to sell Christmas crackers to Under 12s?
When a product arrives on shop shelves, certain precautions must be taken to ensure that they do not end up in the wrong hands or cause any damage/injury.
The Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2015, s 31 states that an “Economic operator must not make a pyrotechnic article available on the market… to a person younger than [12 years].”
Up until 2013, the minimum age for buying Christmas Crackers was 16, but over 300 regulations were edited through the Government’s Red Tape Challenge, to update old fashioned laws and encourage business growth.
9. Is it illegal to build large snowmen?
Whilst we build snowmen to our hearts’ content here in the UK, in Canada, Souris P.E.I., a local law states that residents who live on a corner lot, (which we would call an end of terrace house), are not permitted to have a snowman taller than 30 inches.
Verdict: Myth (Unless you’re Canadian!)
10. Is it illegal to queue jump in a Tube ticket hall?
The Christmas commute is a testing journey for some. People push and crowds can be enormous. But, there is a law about queuing in the London Underground.
Under s.26 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999, the TFL Bye Laws state “Any person directed by a notice to queue or asked to queue by an authorised person shall join the rear of the queue and obey the reasonable instructions of any authorised person regulating the queue.”
Better take good notice of queues- or you could end up on the wrong side of the law this festive period.
11. Anti-Competitive Behaviour
Anti-competitive behaviour is conducted when two or more different businesses enter into a form of agreement to protect their sales, and trade by distorting the value of their products thus preventing or restricting competition. Basically, competitors agree not to undercut each other.
The Competition and Markets Authority are campaigning to protect consumers by introducing fines to online retailers and prevent them from taking part in any anti-competitive activity. These fines can be as big as 10% of their turnover.
12. Are you breaking your rental contract by staying away at Christmas?
Certainly not. You’re free to go and come as you please, as long as you’re up-to-date on your rent.
However, you must check your contract as some tenancy agreements include obligations that are particularly important for the general maintenance of your home at this time of year.
For example, some agreements state that you may be required to perform routine checks or drain the heating system to avoid liability for damage caused to your landlord’s property by any burst pipes.
Verdict: Myth – But check that agreement!
There you have it, so do be sure to keep on the right side of the law this Christmas! From all of us at Osborne Morris & Morgan.