The Laws on Christmas (Post-Pandemic Edition, updated November 2023)
Yes, you read the title right. There is a law on Christmas in the Philippines. And now that the pandemic is over (hopefully), things are, pretty much, the way they used to be. Somewhat.
If you are not aware, we try to update this article every year, as our yearly Christmas tribute. During the pandemic years, from 2020 to 2021, things were obviously different. Back then, we all experienced a different kind of Christmas. But entering 2024, while our outlook towards the world has changed, hopefully for the better, our outlook towards Christmas remains the same (and this is a good thing!).
This year (and as with every year), we hope that Christmas will be better. As we now progress towards a world pandemic-free (almost), we pray that things will look a little brighter in 2024.
Thus, we updated this article for Christmas 2023, and this time (happily) without the COVID issuances and restrictions that we have almost grown accustomed to.
We hope you will enjoy and find this article relevant.
Old Laws on Christmas in the Philippines
But just so you are aware, during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, there is an Executive Order issued by the President, under the authority conferred by “the Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Japanese Forces in the Philippines…” to observe Christmas Day, which is the 25th day of December, as a national holiday.
There is also an old and repealed law, Republic Act No. 946 dated 20 June 1953, which outlawed working on Christmas day and New Year’s Day. Back then, it was illegal and criminal (subject to certain exceptions) to work during our most favorite holidays, and employers who violate this law are slapped with either a fine or imprisonment, or both.
The Philippine Labor Code and Christmas
Republic Act No. 946 was eventually repealed by the Presidential Decree No. 442 in 1974, as amended, which we now know as the Labor Code of the Philippines. Christmas Day (and other holidays) were lumped together into the term “holiday”, and employees became entitled to compensation, which we now know as “holiday pay”. However, the Labor Code did not actually use the term “Christmas Day”. Instead, the Labor Code defined the term “holiday” to include “the twenty-fifth and thirtieth of December”.
The 13th Month Pay Law, the Administrative Code of the Philippines and other Laws on Christmas
The 13th Month Pay Law
Less than a year after the Labor Code’s enactment, and just a few days shy away from Christmas day, Presidential Decree 851, also known as the 13th Month Pay Law, was implemented. This law is probably the most well-known piece of Christmas legislation. More importantly, the law specifically mentioned Christmas as its raison d’etre, stating that “the Christmas season is an opportune time for society to show its concern for the plight of the working masses so they may properly celebrate Christmas and New Year.” As everyone knows, it is mandatory for covered employers to provide eligible employees a 13th month pay.
Executive Order No. 292, also known as the Administrative Code of the Philippines
After the Labor Code was enacted, there was Executive Order No. 292, also known as the Administrative Code of the Philippines, issued on 25 July 1988. It became clear under the Administrative Code, from a strict legal viewpoint, that what we are celebrating on 25 December of each year is Christmas Day, and that it is a regular holiday.
Republic Act No. 6686
A few months after came Republic Act No. 6686, and again a few days shy of Christmas day in 1988. This law authorized the grant of an annual Christmas bonus to the national and local government officials, starting 1988.
Republic Act No. 6713
A few years after, the government enacted Republic Act No. 6713. This law prohibited the giving and receiving of presents or gifts to government employees and public officials, with the exception of Christmas and other national festivities, and provided the gift given is modest.
Republic Act No. 9492
Thereafter, Congress enacted Republic Act No. 9492, which “rationalized the celebration of National Holidays” and also amended provisions of the Administrative Code. Obviously, the law retained Christmas Day, December 25, as a regular holiday.
No Law for Christmas Eve
We have yet to see an actual law enacted by the Philippine Congress to declare December 24 as a special non-working day. However, it became a trend for many years now, that December 24, also known as Christmas Eve, is declared and celebrated as a special non-working day. This is usually done by Executive Order or Proclamation issued by the President. This year, there is no declaration and hence, Christmas Eve, a Sunday, is not a holiday. For those with Sunday work, this remains a regular working day. Of course, let’s tune in for news as this might change!
Updates on the Law on Christmas
Year after year, portions of Executive Order No. 292, relating to holidays, are amended to reflect additional holidays, but always retaining December 25, Christmas Day, as a red-letter day.
Update: The most relevant to date are the following:
Proclamation No. 90 issued on November 9, 2023, declaring December 25, a Monday, as a Regular Holiday. So too is December 30, 2023, a Saturday, and December 31, a Sunday, declared as a Regular Holiday and a Special Working day. This means that Christmas Eve is now a regular day, while the Last Day of the Year, which is traditionally a Special Non-Working Day, has been retained. Nevertheless, holiday or not, all who will be going to work will be working with a sense and feel of the Christmas and New Year’s festivities.
A word of caution: just remember that if you are absent from work on the day previous to the holiday, your entitlement to holiday and premium pay for the following day may be affected.
Celebrating Christmas 2023, Post-Pandemic
This year, have you been naughty or nice? We know you have been nice! We also know that being indoors is not a distant memory for most. And while the experience of staying inside the house has been different for all, one thing this is clear for everyone in the Philippines, the COVID restrictions and issuances that affected our mobility and Christmas cheers are also a thing of the past.
Everyone is now out, enjoying the holiday shopping, malls and shopping centers. There are no more restrictions towards entering amusement parks or theme parks, most of which are already filling up with the holiday cheer. Also, we are all excited to attend Christmas parties and family gatherings during the holidays, because there are no more restrictions unlike those in place during the previous pandemic years.
As regards payment of holiday pay, the same regulations apply. There have been no issuances yet regarding the payment of holidays for December 2023, but even if regulations are subsequently issued, we expect no changes to be made, than the usual reminders to employers to pay 13th month pay before the year ends.
Violating the Laws on Christmas is a Crime
Are there penalties for playing the Grinch and violating these Christmas laws? You bet there are!
Firstly, if you don’t pay the required holiday premiums or the mandated 13th month pay, you risk landing on the Department of Labor and Employment’s naughty list. And trust me, that’s one list you don’t want to be on! The Labor Code doesn’t take kindly to such violations, and you could end up with a fine, imprisonment, or both, depending on the Court’s mood.
Secondly, if you’ve been extra naughty, the Revised Penal Code has a special provision just for you. It punishes those who hurt religious feelings with imprisonment. So, if you’re planning on performing acts that are notoriously offensive to the faithful, you might want to reconsider.
These penalties are so severe that even Santa Claus wouldn’t wish them on his worst enemy. So, let’s keep the Christmas spirit alive and respect these laws. After all, nobody wants to spend Christmas in a courtroom or behind bars!
Here’s wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year filled with joy, peace, and law-abiding cheer!
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