In the holiday classic Miracle on 34th Street, Kris Kringle famously gets hauled before a judge to determine whether he is insane or, in fact, the real Santa Claus. But, have you ever wondered just how many crimes and other offenses Santa would be guilty of if he were indeed everything he’s cracked up to be? Let’s make an indictment, check it twice, and see whether Santa is naughty or nice.
Sean Braswell, Senior Writer
a christmas eve home invasion
Let’s start with the most obvious: Santa is the Al Capone of home invasion and could get hammered with multiple counts of criminal trespass and burglary. Santa may not be your typical thief — he’s arguably the opposite of one — but the crime of burglary is more about preserving the sanctity of a person’s home than protecting against theft, and about a third of all burglaries occur while someone is home.
2. Lack of Consent
But doesn’t Santa have our consent to enter the premises, you say? Holding up a child’s gift wish list in court as proof of the owner’s implicit consent to enter the premises unannounced is a pretty shaky legal defense. And of the millions of chimneys he slides down on Christmas Eve, it seems unlikely he could produce even that flimsy piece of evidence for every household entered.
3. Castle Laws
To make matters worse, a good lawyer would undoubtedly inform Mr. Kringle that many countries and states — not just Texas — allow property owners to defend themselves with lethal force against an intruder, even if said intruder is cheerfully singing “ho, ho, ho” as he slides down the chimney.
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Even before his annual Christmas Eve crime spree, Santa is engaged in a global surveillance enterprise that makes the NSA look like a bunch of ham radio enthusiasts. Sure, Santa receives a great deal of the intelligence for his massive “naughty or nice” list from parents and shelf elves, but knowing when each of the estimated 526 million believing children under the age of 14 are sleeping and awake requires a surveillance operation that would easily run afoul of most privacy and data protection laws.
2. A Demanding Boss
Of course, in addition to being a serial burglar and a master spy, Santa is the CEO/Dear Leader of some form of a fascist Arctic labor colony. There is really no evidence to suggest that the elves who man the North Pole’s toy factory receive any salary or compensation other than room and board, making them closer to serfs toiling on the land of their lord’s estate than paid employees or even independent contractors.
3. Safe Waters
Fortunately, for Jolly St. Nick, he runs his feudal factory operation in international waters, and while the Maritime Labour Convention of 2006 does set some minimum protections for maritime workers, compliance with such measures is only sporadically enforced against exploitative seafaring bosses like Mr. Kringle.
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Forcing captive reindeer to engage in a jaw-dropping feat of globe-trotting endurance seems callous and inhumane, and would constitute deliberate, premeditated cruelty to an animal.
2. Driving Under the Influence
Even with a superhuman tolerance, imbibing tens of millions of units of alcohol in less than 24 hours — thanks to the eggnog and other refreshments left by well-meaning parents — is going to result in some seriously impaired sleigh-driving.
3. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Naughty children may deserve that lump of coal in their stockings, but that’s not a sufficient defense for the severe emotional distress it can visit upon them.
4. Alienation of Affection
In several states, if Daddy sees Mommy kissing Santa Claus, then he has an action for alienation of affection against the third party who is disrupting his marriage.
5. Airspace and Immigration Violations
Flouting sovereign air spaces and carrying contraband across international borders has legal consequences.
6. Antitrust Violations
There can be no question that Santa has a monopoly over the Christmas gift market, and giving away commercial items undoubtedly reduces competition and harms competitors.
7. Tax Evasion
There are no records of Santa having paid any taxes to any tax authority, and while the enormous losses he accrues from gifting the estimated $142 trillion in toys he manufactures may negate any income tax liability, he could well owe a number of other tariffs and taxes for his activities, including payroll taxes for his elves if a court were to deem them employees.
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You’ve likely encountered Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze’s famous 1851 oil painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware, but were you aware that the legendary crossing took place on Christmas night? The next morning in the Battle of Trenton, Washington’s men scored a stunning victory against the Hessians, many of whom were still recovering from the holiday festivities.
Speaking of soldiers and hangovers: Hazy cadets at West Point Academy stumbled from their barracks on Christmas morning in 1826 to find broken windows, smashed furniture and chaos. It was the result of a massive on-campus riot fueled by the cadets’ consumption of a home-brewed holiday eggnog spiked with about 4 gallons of whiskey that future Southern leader Jefferson Davis and several others had smuggled into the alcohol-free academy. Nineteen cadets, not including Davis (who passed out early in the riot), were eventually expelled.
The men surrounding Jefferson Davis, however, would be treated more leniently nearly half a century later. In the wake of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, debates raged about whether former Confederates should be granted amnesty for conduct during the war. On Christmas Day 1868, President Andrew Johnson issued a proclamation that restored “all rights, privileges and immunities under the Constitution” to almost all former Rebels (but not leaders like Davis).
Five months after the outbreak of war in Europe, a martial miracle occurred on the Western Front when, on Christmas morning 1914, British, Belgian and French soldiers emerged from their trenches to peacefully engage with their German adversaries. They exchanged cigarettes and gifts, sang carols and kicked around makeshift soccer balls. “I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence,” one British veteran later recalled of the truce to The Observer. “It was a short peace in a terrible war.”
5. Nicolae Ceaușescu’s Execution (1989)
The long, terrible reign of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu came to a quick end on Christmas Day in 1989. After 34 years in power, Ceaușescu and his wife, Elena, were arrested in the wake of a bloody rebellion. On Christmas morning, the two were tried for genocide before a tribunal in a cramped room in a cavalry barracks. They were convicted after two hours and summarily executed by firing squad in the adjoining courtyard.
6. Mikhail Gorbachev Resigns (1991)
Two years later, in another sea change in leadership, Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev resigned his position during a televised speech on Christmas Day. “We’re now living in a new world,” Gorbachev declared in recognition of the transformation his country had undergone, including an end of the Cold War, a communist economy and a nuclear arms race. As Gorbachev gave his farewell speech, Kremlin guards prepared to lower the red Soviet flag, which had flown above Red Square and Lenin’s tomb for decades, for the last time.