Have you ever thought about it? Santa Claus or Father Christmas, a figure that is inherently linked with Christmas and the act of giving, a… law breaker?
Well... regardless of how funny or even absurd this may sound, there are hints to 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 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 all over the world. To do that he, obviously, takes advantage of the different time zones and the ability of his reindeers to carry his sleigh with all the presents and travel at a high speed, possibly infringing any imposed air speed limits in residential areas, had there ever been police for air traffic, as well as any maximum air speed 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 rather an alcoholic beverage. Just imagine Santa 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, while he would have been required to pay huge fines. Notwithstanding that, he would also risk of losing his sleigh’s flying license, had he ever been caught by the air police for breaching the air traffic laws in the past too. Sounds like Santa might have been in a lot of trouble!
Can Santa Claus really be a... trespasser? Well... 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’, 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 with a rather humoristic and/or sarcastic realisation, 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 as long ‘it’s that time of year’!
Be wary though of the Grinch! as we all know he once tried to steal Christmas while all dressed up as Santa!
Causing damage or nuisance
What about that sleigh and the reindeers on the roof…? What if they cause a 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 kind 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. As regards issues about the noise (a nuisance) from Santa’s sleigh and reindeers, I am sure that 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 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!
 so we do not accuse him of infringing our fundamental right to privacy and for any unfair use of our personal data.
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