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Santa Laws

If your family celebrates Christmas and expects a visit from Santa Claus, you and yours are hoping for a successful visit from the jolly old elf and his reindeer. Local, federal and foreign governments are doing their regulatory best to speed his mail and ease his journey across borders with foreign livestock, regardless of his nationality or the emissions his vehicle produces.

On a pre-Christmas visit to Carol Highsmith’s studio in Washington, D.C., Santa Claus gets a wish list from a little girl. Photo by Carol Highsmith. [between 1980-2006]. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/highsm.14957. 

When you or your children plan to post letters to Santa, in the U.S. the Postal Service helps with some of his deliveries. In the U.K., the Royal Mail has a dedicated post code for his letters, Australia has a direct mailing address for Santa letters, and Germany has official addresses for the Christkind, Santa Clause, and St. Nikolaus. In Canada there is a dedicated postcode to address his letters that is humorous and perfect: H0H 0H0. Of course, it makes sense that Canada would have a dedicated post code for Santa; the Canadian government has previously granted Santa Claus citizenship rights.

While Santa can enter Canada as a citizen without difficulty, other jurisdictions have also worked to make him welcome. The Convention on International Civil Aviation regulates flights over international airspace but in the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) often grants Santa special flight and launch permission. We can assume that he has his pilot’s license, because in the U.S., there are federal criminal penalties for flying without one. NORAD tracks his flight. It is good that they watch out for his safety, but his chosen mode of travel has legal implications also. His sleigh is pulled by reindeer; ownership or possession of Alaskan reindeer in the United States is limited to Alaska Natives. Moreover, the import and export of wildlife is regulated by U.S. government agencies such as USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Safety Inspection Service (APHIS), as we explained in an earlier post. Fortunately APHIS plans ahead, and last year they granted Santa a movement permit into any U.S. border or port. That is lucky, because Santa probably is already concerned about ensuring his reindeer have enough grazing land to keep them healthy all year and fueled for their big flight. Some jurisdictions also tax emissions, but there’s no consensus on the effects of the emissions from the methane created by Santa’s reindeer.

While he’s making those flights, he is also consuming tidbits left behind for him at his residential stops. The treats people leave for him vary greatly by region—in the U.S. it is often milk and cookies and a carrot for the reindeer. There is one drink he will not find waiting for him in the District of Columbia and Ohio: beer with his portrait on it. In both Ohio and D.C., it’s illegal to use Santa Claus’ image in advertising for alcohol.

Happy Holidays to everyone who celebrates!

Resources

GT4985.F79 2016 Fry, Hannah and Thomas OleĢron Evans. The Indisputable Existence of Santa Claus: the Mathematics of Christmas.

Reindeer History in Alaska. Reindeer Research Program, University of Alaska Fairbanks. 2004. https://reindeer.salrm.uaf.edu/about_reindeer/history.php Accessed 7 December 2021.

Elin Hofverberg. Regulating the Movement of Grazing Reindeer in the North – The Reindeer Convention of 1919. In Custodia Legis. December 23, 2019.

JX640.I7 A3 1946, no. 6  International Civil Aviation Conference, Chicago, 1944. Convention on International Civil Aviation, Chicago, December 7, 1944.

 

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3 Comments

  1. Francisco
    December 14, 2021 at 9:50 am

    Thanks for sharing this great blog post, Jennifer! Merry Christmas.

  2. Amy Huelskamp
    December 14, 2021 at 11:35 am

    My son NEEDS a Santa

  3. Khelsea
    December 14, 2021 at 12:07 pm

    Such a cute post! Thank you and Happy Holidays!

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