Christmas is illegal...!?

Peter Sanderson-Dykes / 23h01 - 17 december 2017 / 0 comments

If you decide to eat a Christmas pudding this year, you'll be committing a criminal offence...

... Fact! Oliver Cromwell's Long Parliament of 1664 passed an ordinance stating that everyone must "observe the monthly fast on the day which heretofore was called the Feast of the Nativity of our Saviour". It also forbade the making of Christmas pudding and mince pies, describing them as "abominable and idolatrous things to be avoided by Christians".

Having said that, it's highly unlikely that you'll be prosecuted for doing one of these things. British law is made up of over 4000 statutes, some of which go back to the year 1235. Most of these laws were passed during particular circumstances but were never repealed when the circumstances no longer existed. The fact remains nonetheless that anyone celebrating Christmas in Britain will technically be breaking the law.

Officially, a lawful Christmas Day must start with going to church. The Holy Days and Fasting Days Act of 1551 stipulates that every Christian is obliged to attend a church service on the "Nativitie of our Lorde." You cannot, however, drive there, because a Victorian law allows the police to confiscate and sell any privately-owned vehicles used for Christmas Day churchgoing.

And then there are the laws about the food you can buy on the 25th: bananas cannot be bought legally after 8pm, and the same time limit is imposed on the sale of unpeeled potatoes (but you can buy chips after 8pm.) Furthermore, it's also against the law to have more than three courses for Christmas dinner in your own home!

A very interesting law was passed in 1677. It states that on Christmas Day "noe servant, artificer, workeman, labourer or other person whatsoever shall do or exercise any worldly labours, business or work of their ordinary callings". Put another way, any member of the constabulary who arrests you for eating mince pies is ALSO breaking the law.

Giving presents is banned too. It was once traditional for large firms to give substantial bonuses at this time to their regular customers. This practice led to so much corruption that in 1906 an Act for the Better Prevention of Corruption was passed. "Any person who gives or agrees to give, or accepts any gift" was, yet again, technically breaking the law.

Of course, all forms of acting and shows are forbidden. Many legal experts regard this decision as the most sensible and far-sighted ever taken by British lawmakers. Could they have predicted the rise of such "entertainers" as Graham Norton, Chris Evans or Ant and Dec, and made an effort to give us a break from them, at least once a year?

Just think; if we had followed the wisdom of our forbears, we would have been spared the annual torture of Strictly Come Dancing/East Enders/X-Factor Christmas Special forever....

It's worth thinking about as you enjoy yourself (illegally) this Christmas!!