Christmas Crimes & Misdemeanors
Beyond the list of ordinary crimes that persist during Christmas, certain misdeeds are unique to the season. Consider the often-vandalized nativity scene at the Holy Family Church on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina for one example.
Liz Mitchell of The Beaufort (South Carolina) Gazette  reported that this year the congregation moved its creche closer to the church in order to keep closer watch. The Holy Family Church bought its manger scene about 15 years ago, but had to replace the Baby Jesus statue when thieves nabbed it two years ago.
The Church bought another statue for about $800, only to have the new one stolen. Fortunately, this second statue showed up on a park bench down the road and was safely returned to the Church.
Ten years ago, however, a number of pieces of the Italian-made nativity scene were decapitated, broken or thrown into a lagoon near the church. "Similar scenes," wrote Mitchell, "can cost more than $20,000."
Yet Hilton Head Island's incident was a fairly common one. Bordering on the bizarre was a 2006 haist in Chicago. CBS11TV's website told of the disappearance of no less than 32 plastic Christ children from neighborhood nativity scenes. When a wonderstruck woman found all 32 statues lined neatly up along her front-yard fence, she gathered them up and delivered them to the local priest. 
Normally sober people are apt to liquor it up during the holidays. Some English churchgoers have come up with a plan to avoid the drunken, disorderly and violent behavior just outside their midnight Christmas Eve services.
"In Newcastle upon Tyne," wrote Jonathan Petre of the London Daily Telegraph, "the Cathedral of St Mary in the heart of the city's entertainment district, is holding its Christmas Eve Mass at 8pm because of fears of drunken louts disrupting the service, as is St Bede's in the Denton area of the city." Churches in Edinburgh and other parts of the United Kingdom are taking similar precautions.
A Christmas crime story of another kind took place in the New Orleans of the 1820s. Of the prostitute Annie Christmas, Robert Jay Nash  wrote that she was unsurpassed by any of "the evil characters who infested the Swamp, the early-day, vile district" of the Big Easy. Six feet eight inches tall and tipping the scales at 250 pounds, Annie sported a neatly-trimmed mustache. Her day job was part time stevedore and/or flatboat captain, and she was seen shouldering loads of up to twice her weight along the dockside. As for her evening shift, Nash added that Annie and the girls on her floating bordello "were the most diseased and repulsive" to be found, but more than fit for their "clientele of wharf thieves and river cutthroats."
Annie Christmas wore a necklace of the eyes, noses and ears that she had claimed from men foolhardy enough to challenge her to a fight. It took fifty scoundrels in a gambling den to do Annie in at last. The mob came up from behind and reportedly stabbed or shot her over 100 times before she died.
Annie had proven as hard to kill as Russian monk Gregory Efimovitch Rasputin would be a century later. Between the Western and Eastern Christmases in 1916 (December 31), conspirators shot Rasputin twice after he had survived a poisoned meal. The monk survived a further battering with a steel press. As he sank to his doom in the frozen River Neva, Rasputin managed to slip his right hand free from its binding to make one last sign of the cross. 
• RELATED CHRISTMAS STORIES:
 Mitchell, Liz. "Church tries to keep Baby Jesus safe, "http://dwb.beaufortgazette.com/local_news/story/6764597p-6034366c.html"; published December 19, 2007. Accessed on December 26, 2007.
 "Christmas Crime Waves Hit The Country" [NEW YORK (AP)], posted on the CBSTV11.com website, http://cbs11tv.com/national/christmas.crime.holidays.2.276455.html, on December 23, 2006. Accessed on December 26, 2007.
 Petre, Jonathan. "Midnight Mass is at 8pm to fool drunks.(News)." Daily Telegraph (London, England) (Dec 19, 2007): NA. Custom Newspapers (InfoTrac-Gale). Gale. Beaufort County Library. Accessed on December 26, 2007.
 Nash, Jay Robert (Editor). Encyclopedia of World Crime: Criminal Justice, Criminology, & Law Enforcement. Vol. 3, p. 709.
 "Gregory Efimovitch Rasputin." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, 5th ed. Gale Group, 2001. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. 2007. Accessed on December 26, 2007.