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Bizarre Holiday Laws

How did it get to be December so quickly? In the spirit of the holiday season, here are some of the most bizarre holiday laws!

Misdemeanor for throwing snowballs

In Provo, Utah, there is a city ordinance that restricts residents from using a snowball or any object that could be labeled as a “missile,” to inflict damage to other’s property. The ordinance states “Every person who shall willfully or carelessly within the limits of this city throw any stone, stick, snowball or other missiles whereby any person shall hit, or any window broken or other property injured or destroyed or in such a manner as to render travel upon the public streets and places of the city dangerous, or in such a manner as to frighten or annoy any traveler, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

No live holiday trees

Live trees can be considered fire hazards. Some cities have dealt with concerns of fire by passing laws against live holiday trees. New York City has a law that prohibits the display of natural Christmas trees in retail stores. Similarly, Philadelphia forbids the display of live trees in high rise buildings or any building that houses more than two families.

Don’t pay a debt on Christmas

Having to pay a debt on Christmas can be a real drag to some people. As such, some states have altered debt deadlines so they never fall on December 25th. In 1838, Arkansas passed a law to make debts come due on December 24th. Louisiana went the other way and in 1837, passed a law that would push due dates to December 26th.

Holiday lights: Don’t have too many and don’t leave them up for too long

Various places have laws about holiday lights. Light Trespass laws prohibit such things as misdirected or excessive artificial light caused by inappropriate or misaligned lights that produce unnecessary glowing. Eatontown, New Jersey you can be fined up to $1250 and potentially face 90 days of jail time if found guilty of nuisance lights. Meanwhile in San Diego, California you have until February 2 to take down holiday lights. Which is a couple weeks more generous than in Maine, where fines may be levied any time after January 15th!

Banning Christmas

In 1659, Christmas was banned in Massachusetts. The Puritan government outlawed the holiday in order to discourage “disorderly” behavior. Anyone who failed to show up for work or participated in feasting would be fined five shillings. The Christmas ban lasted until 1681 and Massachusetts didn’t make Christmas an official holiday until 1856.

Knowing local laws and ordinances can help keep you out of trouble this holiday season. If you want to see if your local municipality or local government has any bizarre holiday laws to be aware of, contact your local law library or check out your local municipality’s website. Most governments will keep a link to their codes and ordinances online for you to peruse at your leisure!

Happy holidays!

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