12 Laws of Christmas

19th November 2021

1. A law passed by Charles II in 1677 makes it illegal on Christmas Day for any “person whatsoever to do or exercise any worldly labour, business or work of their ordinary callings.” So those unlucky enough to have to work on December 25 will technically be breaking the law. Whether this excuse will cut much ice with your employer is perhaps another matter.

2. It is illegal to sell Christmas crackers to persons younger than 12 years old. The Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2015 states that an “economic operator must not make a pyrotechnic article available on the market…to a person younger than [12 years]”, in relation to Christmas crackers. Prior to these regulations, the age restriction had been 16 but it was reduced to 12 as part of the government’s move in 2013 to abolish unnecessary laws.

3. It is an offence to kill game on Christmas Day. Section three of the Game Act 1831 states that it is illegal to “kill or take any game, or use any dog, gun, net or other engine or instrument for the purpose of killing or taking any game, on a Sunday or Christmas Day.”

4. It is illegal to be drunk on licensed premises. Section 12 of the Licensing Act 1872, states that “every person found drunk…on any licensed premises, shall be liable to a penalty.” It is also an offence under the Metropolitan Police Act 1839 for a landlord to permit drunkenness or disorderly conduct on the premises. Furthermore, under the Licensing Act 2003, it is an offence to sell alcohol to a person who is drunk or to obtain alcohol for consumption by a person who is drunk.

5. It is illegal to handle fish in suspicious circumstances. Section 32 of the Salmon Act 1986 makes it an offence to handle fish in suspicious circumstances. The Act used to just apply only to salmon, but it was amended to include other fish by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.

6. It is illegal to ride or drive to church on Christmas Day. Edward VI’s law of 1551 set this out, and it was modified by George III in 1780 allowing police to confiscate and sell any vehicle parked close to a church, the money being distributed to the poor and needy.

7. It is illegal to eat more than three courses of Christmas dinner at a restaurant or hotel, according to a William IV law which was part of the People’s Charter of 1836.

8. It is illegal to take part in any sporting activity other than archery at Christmas as per the Unlawful Games Act passed by Henry VIII in 1541. Archery was seen as essential to maintaining the country’s military strength. This was later joined by ‘leaping and vaulting’ which kept young men fit and strong.

9. Outdoor Christmas lights may be illegal. There is 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.

10. In London it is illegal to make or use a slide “upon ice or snow in any street or other thoroughfare”; the winter fun is banned if it creates “common danger” to your fellow Londoners, according to The Metropolitan Police Act of 1989.

11. 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 trespass to goods.

12. It is illegal to eat mince pies on Christmas Day! (Well, it was in 1644, as 25 December that year fell on a legally-mandated day of fasting). We hope everyone is enjoying feasting on mince pies this year!