How to avoid breaking the law on Christmas Day.
According to an old English law, your Christmas dinner can get you arrested. Even in your own home it is an offense to eat more than three courses at your festive table. Are you fond of mince pies?
Keep an eye on your local bobby if you are. There is a law stating that no person should be concerned with the making or consuming of mince pies on Christmas Day. And the same law adds that those making or eating plum pudding are liable to a heavy fine, plus imprisonment.
Should you pass a holly bush on your Christmas morning stroll, don’t be tempted to cut any branches from it. This is another offense which can get you imprisoned. The only safe place in England on Christmas morning is in church. In fact there is a law which lays down that you must go. And it’s no use showing off your new car to your fellow parishioners. The law states you must walk.
Better not evidence any acting talents either, not even in charades. This innocent game comes under the general ban on Christmas Day acting. It will not be safe to take the baby out if the pram is not in tip-top condition. It is an offense to replace a tire or strap. If you find any shops open be careful what you buy. There are a host of laws concerning the purchase of bananas, matches, cigarettes, tooth-brushes, fish and chips, raw meat and boot laces. If you’re in the British forces and the sergeant tells you to get your hair cut, you can tell him that’s illegal too.
Few people will argue very much about not having to work on Christmas Day. The law says nobody should work at a job which they ordinarily do on any other day of the year. Even those who keep essential services going are lawbreakers. The TV announcer can drive a bus, but it should be the bus driver who smiles at us from our screens. This could be one way of brightening up an otherwise dull and predictable broadcast schedule at Christmas.
In case you’re becoming worried about spending Christmas behind bars, you can relax. Most of these laws were passed due to circumstances which no longer exist. At the time of writing they remain on the statute book because they have never been officially repealed. There are not enough cells in Britain to hold a small fraction of the Christmas Day lawbreakers.
NOTE: I wrote this article for an English magazine, where it was published in 1964. Later I produced the comedy panel show This Is The Law for CBC in the 70s and wrote the book This Is The Law? published in 1976. Many of these laws were recycled from one media to the next and here I am recycling them again as my Christmas present to you. Have a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
This article was originally posted in December 2013.