As the festive season (or festering season as my old Dad used to call it) looms ever nearer I got to thinking about the legal implications of Christmas, as only a lawyer would. Certainly the period just after Christmas has always been traditionally busy for those involved in family law matters. There is nothing like a wet holiday period to dramatically increase marital discord. On a happier note some people start buying and selling houses, after spending their holidays in a place that seemed more attractive than their own home town.
Even the oldest Christmas story of all can be given a modern day legal makeover. Without wishing to be at all disrespectful, I could imagine something like this…
Police investigating why a crowd was gathering near a farm outbuilding on the 25th December were surprised to discover that a baby had just been born among the stock in the barn. Police called for an ambulance and notified the duty social worker at Children and Young Person’s Service of a possible case of neglect. The investigating social worker immediately took the baby into temporary care. Mary, the baby’s mother, was later interviewed at a nearby hospital. She advised that she and her husband Joseph could not find a vacancy at a motel and the barn seemed the next best choice.
She also told the social worker that although she was married to Joseph he was not the father of her child. She had just miraculously fallen pregnant without Joseph’s help. No other man was involved and it was not a case of IVF, she said. After asking further questions and checking with Joseph, who confirmed his wife’s story and told of seeing visions and hearing music, the social worker recommended to her supervisor that a psychological assessment of both parents be undertaken and that an application be made for interim guardianship of the baby in favour of the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development. Joseph spent the rest of the day ringing around trying to find a good Family Court lawyer who would represent him on legal aid.
Meanwhile at Auckland International Airport there was a security alert when three aging men from different parts of the Middle East arrived on the same flight carrying strange luggage. Upon being interviewed separately by Immigration Officers each told the same story. They had come with gifts to celebrate the birth of a child. Unfortunately they did not know the name of the child, the parents or their residential address. However, they were each confident that, if granted a tourist visa, they would find the building housing the baby from seeing bright lights in the sky.
A search of their luggage by Customs Officers found organic material that MAF officials later determined was a risk to New Zealand biosecurity. A quantity of frankincense and myrrh was seized. The three men were refused entry to New Zealand and were ordered to be placed on the next plane back to ancient Persia. Upon receiving this directive the three men asked to see an Immigration lawyer as they wished to apply for refugee status….
Some Christmas Legal Trivia
In 1659 celebrating Christmas was banned by the Puritans in Boston, Massachusetts as they didn’t believe it was a real Christian festival. The ban remained in force for over twenty years
This year (2009) a hotel chain in the UK is offering a 25% discount for mothers-in-law who stay between 23-29th December. This offer is seen as a means of reducing Christmas stress for the family.
It can be unconstitutional in the USA for the Government to erect a nativity scene in a public building, although it is the constitutional right of individual Americans to do so if they wish.
In 1646 Oliver Cromwell’s Long Parliament banned eating a Christmas dinner of more than three courses in England. Technically the law still remains in force.
Finally, Christmas wishes as only a lawyer would express them…
Please accept without obligation, express or implied, these best wishes for an environmentally safe, socially responsible, low stress, non addictive, and gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday as practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice (but with respect for the religious or secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or for their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all) and further for a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated onset of the generally accepted calendar year (including, but not limited to, the Christian calendar, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures). The preceding wishes are extended without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform, or sexual preference of the wishee(s).
Or, as most of us would say – Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
© Terry Carson – December 2009
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is of a general and summarised nature only. It should not be used as a substitute for obtaining personal legal advice.