What if Santa Claus is breaking the law during Christmas?

Have you ever thought about it? Santa Claus or Father Christmas, a figure that is linked with Christmas and the act of giving a lawbreaker? Regardless of how funny or even absurd this may sound, there are hints which suggest that Santa Claus could be charged as such in certain circumstances. But what are the offences for which Santa Claus may be accused of?


Stealing personal data and infringing people’s right to privacy


Considering that the naughty or nice list is a thing, then Santa and his elves may be interfering with our right to privacy. Why is that? Allegedly, to concentrate all the information necessary to decide who is naughty and who is nice, Santa must access lots of private information and as the song goes ‘he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good...’. So, he sees us, and he knows all about us! but who consented to that…?


Assuming that this tactic is an established (international) customary law principle that is solely reserved for Santa Claus [1], regulating this spectrum of Christmas fantasy this article is all about, then Santa is undoubtedly seen to be bound by the relevant data protection regulations of every country because the course of his ‘business’ relies solely on collecting personal information. In this regard, the advice is Santa beware! as falling astray from the designated rules that protect personal data and information incurs civil liability!

High speed and ‘drink flying’


Santa is well known for delivering presents in one night across the globe. To do that, he takes advantage of the different time zones and the ability of his reindeers to carry his sleigh with all the presents and travel at high speed. This comes with the possibility of infringing any imposed airspeed limits in residential areas, had there ever been police for air traffic, as well as any maximum airspeed limits when he travels from country to country.


Moreover, the tradition of leaving some treats -usually biscuits and a beverage- is one that might place Santa into trouble where no milk is offered to thank Santa but an alcoholic beverage. Just imagine Santa getting caught for being drunk while speed flying during Christmas! It would have surely made the headlines, and we would have possibly seen him behind bars, as he might be asked to pay huge fines for his release. Notwithstanding that, he would also risk losing his sleigh’s flying license, had he ever been caught, in the past, by the air police for breaching air traffic laws. Sounds like Santa might be in a lot of trouble!


Trespass


Can Santa Claus really be a trespasser? According to the law, he (as any other person in a similar situation) may indeed be a trespasser, but ONLY if you are not expecting him, as in that case, he will have no permission to enter your home! Trespass is, after all, an offence concerning the unauthorised entry of a person to another's property.


Olaf, the funny snowman from Disney’s ‘Frozen’, gives us great insight into Santa's allegedly trespassing tactics. More specifically, the beloved snowman, whilst on his quest to collect Christmas traditions for his friends, in the 2017 short film 'Olaf's Frozen Adventure', learns all about the legend of Santa Claus and his 'tactics', leaving a sarcastic remark, summed up with the phrase: 'Breaking and entering, Okay on Christmas'!


Obviously, breaking and entering into another’s house is an offence – trespass. In this regard, when considering the way through which Santa ‘sneaks’ into our homes through chimneys and in secret as no human is supposed to see him, we may very well suspect him to be a trespasser. However, according to the law, trespass occurs only where entry is not permitted, hence Santa becomes a trespasser where a household expects no Santa Claus on their property during Christmas and/or any other day of the year. Therefore, if you have sent that letter asking for toys, and have set the table with cookies and milk or cognac while 'wait[ing] up for a chubby man to shimmy down your chimney' then Santa commits no offence entering your home, as long ‘it’s that time of year’!


Be wary, though, of the Grinch! as we all know, he once tried to steal Christmas dressed up as Santa Claus! Of course, you can easily recognise his green fur and his thirst to steal and destroy all the Christmas decorations and Christmas trees, as the real Santa wouldn't do that, would he?


Causing damage or nuisance


What about that sleigh and the reindeers on the roof? What if they cause damage or a nuisance? Well, as long as you expect Santa to visit your home and bring presents, the sleigh and the reindeers should be expected to land on your roof too. As all these are a product of Christmas magic, it is unlikely that any type of nuisance or damage to your home will occur. In the unlikely scenario that Santa with his sleigh causes any damage to your home or person(!), then he will definitely be held accountable for any damage/injury caused to you under the relevant laws of tort/delict. For issues concerning the noise (a nuisance) from Santa’s sleigh and reindeers, surely, most of us ‘believers’ will have no issue with that, but the contrary! 😉 Our neighbours, however, may have a different opinion…

So, what do you think? Is Santa Claus a lawbreaker, or are his actions justified for the joy he brings to the world during Christmas? As this 'chubby man will soon appear' Legal Compass wishes you all a very Merry Christmas!


[1] so we do not accuse him of infringing our fundamental right to privacy and for any unfair use of our personal data.



***This post was originally posted on the 24th of December 2020 and was updated on the 23rd of December 2021.



Bibliography

Belinda Reeve, Santa: jolly gift giver, or creeping trespasser? (Syndney Healthy Law, 10 December 2015) accessed 23 December 2020

Peter Crisp, Christmas crimes: These are the laws Santa breaks (The University of Law, 18 December 2019) accessed 22 December 2020


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