So, The Grinch has been caught and is about to be punished for his crimes against Christmas when suddenly, the people plead for the police to let him go. Why? Because it's the holidays! It wouldn't be in the spirit of the season to do otherwise.
In several cultures, some festive days are associated with new beginnings and giving second chances is a part of it. This could be brought on by a person's adherence to tradition, respect to a person being celebrated, or a personal decision to bring goodwill to people on these days, even to those who have done them wrong. While they wouldn't always think that someone deserves Forgiveness, they'd let go as they want to lessen their own stress because Good Feels Good.
This can overlap with Karma Houdini, depending on how severe the wrongdoing is. Compare with Screw the War, We're Partying! for truce among combatants during festivities. The True Meaning of Christmas usually comes into play for this as an Aesop. Contrast with Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday, when horrific things happening coincide with holidays.
This usually happens at the end, so expect spoilers.
Examples for Christmas and its Fictional Counterparts:
- In one holiday-themed Cookie Crisp commercial, Cookie Crook and Chip attempt to break into Officer Crumb's house to steal some cookie crisp only to once again be caught red handed at the front door. However, because it's the holiday season, Officer Crumb decides to let them have some.
- If you know how the Fruity Pebbles commercials starring The Flintstones go, you know they always involve Barney doing some antics to steal Fred's pebbles. In two Christmas-themed commercials, Barney attempts to steal Fred's pebbles by pretending to be a holiday figure. After Fred finds out Barney's ploy, another character in the room reminds him of the holiday spirit (Santa in the first one, Pebbles in the second). After which, Fred gives Barney a bowl.
- Accidentally done in one Judge Dredd storyline where the computer running one of Mega-City One's hab-blocks goes haywire and sends Christmas gifts to every resident, including a pardon for a murderer on the run. However, the computer turns out to have given people what they want regardless of whether it's allowed or even possible (like the murderer a kill-who-you-want order in Dredd's name, or sending a widow a letter from her husband telling her she's alive), and the whole thing breaks apart as human nature takes over (the murderer starts killing people left and right, children start fighting because they don't want another kid to have the same gift as they did, one man is forcibly evicted by a neighbor who wants his apartment, etc.).
- One issue of The Punisher had Frank following a bunch of guys who had the late Stilt-Man's outfit in their possession. As he is about to open fire on them, Rhino runs into him and convinces him to let them go, as it is Christmas.
- Zigzagged in Eight Crazy Nights. When Davey Stone arrives at the award banquet, the police grab him and are about to arrest him when Jennifer — noticing Davey seems genuinely remorseful — calls for everyone to at least hear him out. They agree to hear him out, deciding to punish him after he's had his say. But after Davey calls them all out for being such assholes to Whitey, they instead follow him to where Whitey is so they can give him the award he so richly deserved. Davey is let off not because it's the holidays, but because of the show of goodwill in what he did for Whitey.
- In The Polar Express, the two main unnamed protagonists are in Santa's sack with "that know-it-all kid" as the protagonist boy calls him. The elves say that the kids aren't meant to be there, but "since it's Christmas, we're gonna let you slide!"
- Used as a Brick Joke in Die Hard 2: The movie begins with John McClane's car being towed by airport police because he accidentally parked it in the wrong place while arriving at the airport to fetch his wife, and all of his pleading (including that, yeah, he be let off the hook because it's Christmas) fall on the deaf ears of the Jerkass airport cop that is ordering the towing. At the end of the film, after all kinds of action-hero shenanigans (and discovering that the jerk cop is the brother of the equally jerkish chief of airport police), the traffic ticket is torn by the chief because "What the hell? It's Christmas and you saved several hundred people!"
- Love the Coopers: Emma is arrested by police officer Percy Williams after she attempts to shoplift a piece of jewelry as a gift for her older sister, Charlotte. In his car, Emma engages him in a conversation about their personal lives while pretending to be a psychiatrist. When she let slip that she lied about certain things, he cut her off before, some time later, forgiving and letting her go, with advice that she buy Charlotte the most expensive Christmas gift she can afford.
- In How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, after the Grinch learns the True Meaning of Christmas and returns the presents he stole, the Whos don't punish him for stealing them in the first place.
- In The Night Before Twistmas, a book set in the universe of Moshi Monsters, the Moshi Monsters equivalent of Santa says, "Since it's Twistmas, I forgive you."
- The Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle", set during Christmas: Holmes believes the guilty party has learned his lesson and actually being punished would only make things worse.
- In the fifth Skulduggery Pleasant book, Valkyrie convinces Skulduggery to give Scapegrace a second chance on account of the fact that Christmas is the the season of forgiveness.
- There is an episode of The Andy Griffith Show wherein a grumpy older dude, feeling lonely at Christmas and wanting to be able to spend it somewhere with people, attempts to steal a bench. Andy (possibly only ostensibly) lets him go because it's Christmas.
- Henry Danger: Inverted in the episode "Christmas Danger". It being Christmas makes it harder for the people in jail, as the judge is out of town for the holidays. With no one to hear their case, Captain Man and his allies are stuck in jail until the judge returns.
- The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: The 2019 animated Christmas Special has Santa Claus forgive Rudy Giuliani for stealing the Naughty & Nice List and read an entry from the nice list that describes Rudy as an inspiration during September 2001.
- In the Red Skelton Show sketch "The Cop and the Anthem", Freddie the Freeloader's schemes to Get into Jail Free for Christmas, such as by running up a huge restaurant bill that he can't pay, are repeatedly foiled by people letting him go out of holiday spirit. Ironically, no sooner does he decide to go back to honest work than he's arrested for loitering.
- The Murdoch Mysteries Christmas Special "Once Upon a Murdoch Christmas" centres on an Inspector Gadget-esque thief named Jumping Jack stealing holiday gifts from the rich to provide the poor with necessities. When Jumping Jack is apprehended and revealed as a department store returns clerk and his shopgirl sister, the people he helped show up and offer to return their warm clothes so Jumping Jack can be released. Moved by the loyalty, one the men pressing charges convinces his colleagues to reconsider and let the poor people keep what they were given.
- Downplayed in the Justice League episode "Comfort and Joy". Flash didn't immediately send the Ultra-Humanite to jail after he rampaged through a modern art museum because he volunteered to fix a toy he broke (or more accurately, he knocked Flash unconscious first and he was already fixing the toy when the speedster woke up). Together, they delivered the toy that Ultra-Humanite customized (from making fart noises to reciting The Nutcracker) to the orphanage and the kids loved this unique version. When Ultra-Humanite went to jail, The Flash left him a literal Aluminum Christmas Tree as a present.
- Subverted in the South Park episode "Merry Christmas, Charlie Manson!" where Stan goes with his friends to spend Christmas with Cartman's relatives when his parents said he couldn't go and he lies about them being dead. They decide to postpone his punishment until after Christmas.
- What's New, Scooby-Doo?: In "A Scooby-Doo! Christmas", the monstrous Headless Snowman had been going around the small town of Winter's Hallow every Christmas and destroying people's homes, making it reach the point where Winter's Hallow refuses to even celebrate Christmas. When unmasked as the Snowman, the remorseful Professor Higginson admitted to his motive of wanting to find his family's stolen gold, and told the town sheriff to turn him in...until a young, idealistic kid named Tommy suggests that, because it's Christmas, everyone should just forgive the professor. They do.
- In Yogi's First Christmas, Herman and Snively are let off the hook after they realize they were wrong about Christmas being "for dum-dums."
- Prisoners are sometimes pardoned due to holidays or other reasons that have nothing to do with their cases (blanket pardons).
- The Filipino word for Christmas Lantern is "parol" (from the Spanish farol, meaning "lantern") and acknowledging what it sounds like, Presidential Pardons are usually given during Christmastime in the Philippines.
- In theory, the tradition of Ninos Inocentesnote in Spain, Hispanic America, and the Philippines gives a free pass to those committing pranks during December 28. It is similar to April Fools' Day but by the logic of the holiday, victims should not be angry at the pranksters, since they could not have committed any sin during the Day of the Innocents. Of course, common sense still applies and you shouldn't try any actual crime and know if the beneficiary of your tricks is someone who would tolerate you.
Examples for Other Holidays:
- Lucky Luke: One story starts when a newly-elected governor declares a general amnesty to celebrate his election, including the Daltons. By the end of the book (as Luke is bringing the Daltons back for their newly-committed crimes), one of the penitentiary guards says they've gotten the rest of their inmates back.
- The Book of Life: On the Day of the Dead, Manolo went to the Land of the Remembered when he died and his final challenge before he can come back to the Land of the Living is to fight a giant skeleton bull combined from every bull his family has killed. He refused to fight it, singing an apology in behalf of his family instead, which it accepted and it passed on peacefully, making Manolo the winner. The Candlemaker, Xibalba, and La Muerte also temporarily brought the other Sanchez ghosts back to the Land of the Living (without losing their Calacas appearances unlike Manolo who is flesh and blood again) because the holiday has a certain amount of leeway.
- Coco: Mama Coco's father is forgiven on the Day of the Dead after decades of being an Un-person to their family when Miguel was inexplicably given the chance to meet him in the afterlife and know why he left his wife and daughter. Hector didn't want to; Ernesto de la Cruz murdered him.
- The plot of Dogma revolves around a special absolution ceremony happening in a Catholic (at least the film's version of it) cathedral in Redbank, New Jersey. Two Fallen Angels set off on a journey to exploit this because the ceremony would grant forgiveness to anyone for any sin, and because the Bible says God must hold true in Heaven what holds true on Earth, this ceremony would allow the angels to return to Heaven. However, the angels' potential absolution presents a big problem: God had specifically barred them from ever returning to Heaven, so their dogmatic absolution would disprove God's infallibility — and bring an end to all existence. The protagonist is given the call to prevent this from happening.
- This is deconstructed by The Purge. For twelve consecutive hours every year, all crimes are made legal to de-stress people by getting all of their violence and anger out in a night of catharsis.
- The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke explain that it was a tradition for the Roman governor of Judea to release a prisoner (of the Jewish crowd's choosing) during the Passover feast. When Jesus is arrested, Pontius Pilate is reluctant to have him executed, but also fears to defy the Jewish religious leaders who want Jesus dead. Pilate tries to escape the situation by suggesting that Jesus could be this year's Passover pardon, but the crowd (egged on by the religious leaders) rejects this, insisting on releasing the insurrectionist Barabbas instead.
- Bob's Burgers: In "I Bob Your Pardon", the town has a hastily-planned turkey-pardoning ceremony for a bird named Drew P. Neck. But the Belchers find out that the bird is set to be killed anyway because the nearest animal shelter is full, so Linda and the kids (with a reluctant Bob in tow) scheme to steal Drew and find him a new home.
- The "Look Who's Purging" episode of Rick and Morty is a Whole Plot Reference to The Purge. The Purge Planet's rulers didn't anticipate that a commoner would try to kill them instead of her fellow commoners and by morning after the Purge, the rulers are dead and the townsfolk decided to begin anew without the old system... until a brawl broke out and the plan they came up with to limit the violence is the same festival.
- A tradition on Thanksgiving is for the President to "pardon" the White House turkey, which is sent to a farm to live out its life. Not that it has committed any crime, except one count of being a turkey.
- The Ur-Example is Kronia, an Ancient Greek festival in honor of Kronos where some restrictions on the social norm are temporarily lifted and people can commit some actions that would get them in trouble outside the holiday's time frame. Of note is that slaves are treated as equals to their owners during this time and can get away with being Servile Snarkers. Its Ancient Roman equivalent is the Saturnalia.
- In France:
- The French kings used to pardon criminals on the day of their coronation.
- In French Courts before 1981, no prisoner could be executed on a holiday.
- Until 2007, minor crimes were pardoned after a new President was elected, although the conditions became more and more restrictive. This encouraged some motorists to become more reckless.
- Pardoning prisoners on Bastille Day is a tradition that Napoléon Bonaparte had started in 1802 to commemorate the storming of the Bastille during The French Revolution and amnestifying traffic tickets was added later on, but Nicolas Sarkozy broke the custom.
- A major part of the Jubilee holiday in Judaism included the freeing of prisoners and slaves and forgiveness of debts.
- In Japan, it is a tradition to release several prisoners when a new emperor comes to power.