12 Things You Don’t Want To Hear About Christmastime
On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… some safety ideas to drum into your head about keeping Christmas safe and fun. Christmastime is a joy to behold, but can literally be the death of you as you’ll see below.
1 – Toppling Trees
It’s important to make sure that your tree is properly supported. Nobody wants a tree to crash down on their heads or their train sets or even into the fireplace. This is all the more important if you have cats who are inclined to climb the tree and bat at the ornaments. It’s one thing to ensure that you have a broad base to ensure the tree stands upright at all times, but you will probably also want to anchor the tree at various points up the height of the tree if critters are likely to climb up. Securing the tree to the spindles of a staircase near the top could help to keep it from falling.
If you have a natural tree, you’ve cut the thing away from its root structure. Traditionally, the base for real trees involve screws that burrow into the trunk and long feet standing off in three directions. Actually, a disk-like or inverted funnel type of base would be more stable. Keeping a real tree properly watered is also crucial to keep it from drying out and becoming a fire hazard. Tree fires figure annually in about 240 of all house fires with an average of 13 deaths and 27 serious injuries. Carelessness with Christmas trees accounts for up to $16,700,00 in property damage each year.
2 – Firey Wires
As we mentioned above, a dried-out real tree that is heavily decked with electric lights can become a towering inferno. The heat of the lights and even in some cases the wires of the lights could be enough to set a dried out tree afire.
Frayed wires on lights that you are either too nostalgic or too cheap to get rid of from one year to the next can cause a fire whether your tree is natural or artificial. Make sure to inspect your light strands from year to year and buy new ones when you need them.
If you want the same lights your parents and grandparents used since before you were born, there are more modern versions that look like the retro-style lights but will keep you safe and save you energy because they are LED lights.
Another common hazard of electrical lights is the desire to have too many plugged into one socket. Having a massive daisy chain of lights plugged in back to back in a single socket is an all-too-common site during the holidays. This can overload a socket and risk starting a fire within the walls of the house. These are particularly dangerous because you don’t realize your house is on fire until it is way too late and they’re harder to put out because the fire department has to break through your walls to put it out.
3 – Hazardous Hanging
Some people like to put decorations all over the house, inside and out. The important thing is to ensure that you have safe footing wherever you choose to hang your lights, garland or ornaments. Be certain that you have a ladder that is at least as high as you need to reach and that you have someone holding the ladder firmly at the bottom.
Inside, the typical ladder is a folding step ladder that forms an a-frame. People will also often use staircases and balconies as places to try to extend themselves to less accessible places. Unless you’re a professional gymnast or mountain climber, you’re probably not going to do very well hanging over a banister to try to hang decorations. People trying to hang decorations will tend to focus on the process of mounting the ornaments and disregard the awkward position they’ve extended themselves into.
Outside, a leaning ladder is more usual. Making sure that this type of ladder is firmly planted is key. Most modern aluminum ladders have grippy feet at the bottom, but these are of dubious use if there is snow or ice on the ground where you’re planting the ladder. Likewise, if you climb onto the roof, you need to be extra careful not to hit a slippery patch. The steeper the pitch of the roof, the more hazardous it is to walk around on.
4 – Pretty Poison
Some of our natural decor can have a rather bad effect on people and animals. At the top of the list is mistletoe. Every single part of the plant is disastrously toxic to people and pets. You may certainly keep on kissing under the mistletoe, but make sure none of the berries drops off into your mouth!
Another dreadfully toxic decoration is holly berries. It would take only 20 berries to kill a child. Keep it up high and away from toddlers who are inclined to put things in their mouths.
Poinsettias have a reputation for being poisonous to cats and dogs. This is only partially true. The taste of the leaves is so bitter that any animal is not likely to eat enough to have a lethal dose. For those who munch first and regret it later, eating poinsettia leaves is likely to induce drooling, vomiting and diarrhea.
It’s been found that up to 80% of Christmas lights contain lead. Of those, up to 28% contain lead in quantities that would prohibit their sale in Europe. Lead poisoning can impact your stomach and kidneys and lead to impairment of your brain and nervous system.
Like most aerosols, spray snow is quite toxic if you inhale the fumes while you’re spraying a jolly snowman onto your window. If you’re going to be using spray snow, be sure to keep a ventilator mask on to prevent ingestion of such chemicals as methylene chloride and acetone. This is also still an issue while the snow is drying on the surface you’ve sprayed it on. Keep the kids away until the snow is dry to prevent inhalation of these carcinogenic compounds.
5 – Friendly Fire
What’s Christmas without candles, a Yule log or a blazing fire in the hearth? A good bit safer, to be sure. The days most commonly associated with house fires started by candles are Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. All the more so since the original form of Christmas lights on your tree was to have candles on the branches. Can you even imagine?
We’ve already seen some of the adverse effects of letting your real tree dry out, but even a properly watered tree can catch fire due to frayed wires, sparks from the fireplace, kids playing with matches or any number of sources.
Fireplaces pose a variety of hazards. Keeping the chimney swept is important as is keeping a spark screen in front of the fireplace. Collected soot in the chimney can start an uncontrolled fire as can animal or bird nests that may have been built there in warmer months.
Yule logs were great in viking long houses in the Dark Ages, but not so much today. Modern homes lack the dirt floors and unrelenting Scandinavian winter air that made Yule logs an important holiday tradition. Having an enormous burning log laying across the length of your living room just isn’t something sustainable in modern households. You might want to put one in the backyard, but you still want to make sure that popping sparks from the log don’t set the grass or nearby trees or bushes alight. Wildfires are not festive and you will be charged with arson if you survive the blaze.
6 – Cheerful Choking
Infants, toddlers and pets are all too often tempted by the delightful ornaments we hang for Christmas. Brightly colored doodads and shiny tinsel can quickly wind up in mouths and throats. Cats in particular are inclined toward the consumption of tinsel. The tinsel itself won’t kill them, but when it passes through the string can cause internal damage if you try to pull it out. Cats with tinsel hanging out of their posteriors are a less than festive part of the holiday season.
Another choking hazard during the holidays is all of the wonderful food. It’s a time for generosity and feasting. People tend to chow down during the holidays, setting aside their diets in favor of cookies, pies and sumptuous dinners. The problem is that any number of these dishes can put you in need of the Heimlich Maneuver. Nuts, bones, unchewed morsels of meat, vegetable or baked goods can easily obstruct airways.
Giving bones to pets is an age-old treat, but not necessarily safe. Rawhide bones are a better option since actual bones can break and splinter, causing choking hazards and sharp fragments to puncture internal organs.
7 – Shiny Sharps
As we mentioned above, dogs chewing on actual bones can cause sharp fragments that can injure them internally. Likewise, we have any variety of sharp decorations that can lead to injury. Worst of all, there’s the dreaded icicle of death.
8 – Slippery Slopes
Although we established that skiing, snowboarding, tubing and sledding are awesome ways to stay fit and active during the cold days of Winter, these also combine the unfortunate mixture of an excess of speed and a dearth of friction. This can be a deadly combination. About 42 skiing/snowboarding fatalities are recorded each year while as many as 20,000 kids were injured in sledding accidents in recent years.
This is a risk you’re generally willing to accept when you’re out playing, but if you’re just walking down the street ice and snow can still be quite slippery and dangerous. I actually had this problem walking to work a few years ago. I was walking across the courthouse square on my way to work and then, WOMPA, I was suddenly horizontal. My wingtips might as well have been skis. My head hit the sidewalk and I was seeing in triple for hours afterward. That sucked.
9 – Fattening Foods
A lot of people go off their diets to enjoy the sumptuous treats of the season. That can be a problem if you’ve already got a heart condition, high cholesterol, diabetes or morbid obesity. If you don’t already have one of these problems, you might just push yourself closer to the borderline of any or all of them if you binge during the Christmas season. It takes 3500 calories over what your body naturally burns on a daily basis to add a single pound of fat. The bad news is that the typical Thanksgiving Dinner can rack up as many as 4500 calories. The occasional splurge is not going to have dreadful lasting effects, but the thing about splurging is that it quickly becomes habit-forming. The dopamine buzz you get from happily munching everything in sight will train your brain to keep on munching even when you don’t necessarily even want to. This is definitely a slippery slope.
Another binge item is alcohol. It’s found that 40% of highway deaths during the holidays are due to drunk driving. With all the Christmas parties, family get-togethers and New Year’s Eve celebrations, people find a lot of ways to consume a lot of alcohol and act very irresponsibly. Even with a designated driver to see you safely home, you may still have to deal with the awkwardness that attends facing your coworkers after a night of drunken foolishness at the company holiday event. A coworker of mine drank himself boneless before supper and proceeded to make a complete fool of himself at the company Christmas party quite a few years back. He wasn’t with the company for long after that. You definitely need to know your limit and stick to it. You also need a designated driver, a guest room to crash in or the good sense to wait until the alcohol is out of your system before you head home. Remember to wait at least one hour for each drink you’ve consumed. If you’re going to be expected to leave the party by a certain time, time your cutoff to allow for this safe waiting period or start making arrangements with less besotted buddies.
10 – Family Feuds
One of the biggest problems around the holidays is not burning trees or choking on tinsel, it’s family blowups. As much as we’d all like to have perfect families with perfect lives, people are just people. We rub each other the wrong way.
Old grudges fester from year to year. The person who irked us as a child probably totally steams us as an adult. Even though Jesus is the very embodiment of divine forgiveness, his birthday celebration is typically a chance to reopen old wounds and revisit festering age-old grievances. If you can be the bigger person and begin the process of spreading forgiveness in your family, great. This can be a truly miraculous healing experience for you and your family.
If the hurt is severe and irreparable, you might just want to skip the family get-togethers and get yourself a new family. Friends can be a family to those who can’t go home for whatever reason. Home is where the heart is. If the place you grew up only tears your heart out, you might want to leave the past in the past and move on.
Warning! Harsh Language. Not child-safe!
Warning! Harsh Language. Not child-safe!
11 – Shopping Shenanigans
What’s Christmastime without people being absolutely horrendous to each other while shopping for gifts for other people? Can we possibly get through a Black Friday without people being trampled to death when the doors open? Can we get through the holiday season without people wrestling each other over the last hot selling item at the store? Can we not deliberately smash shopping carts into people’s cars for double-parking? Can we not throw a fit and cuss out the cashier for being so slow?
Apparently not. People wonder why I do most of my Christmas shopping online. Let the UPS guy fight holiday traffic. I’ll sit home and watch Christmas movies and bake cookies.
12 – Ghoulish Ghosts
When worse comes to worst, you might just get haunted! Is there anything more of a downer for the holidays than having a gaggle of ghosts hassling you?
♫ There’ll be scary ghost stories And tales of the glories of the Christmases long, long ago… ♫
Fortunately, none of us are miserly enough to justify being haunted in order to be taught the meaning of Christmas.
Of course, there’s always the mogwai. Just don’t get them wet or feed them after midnight
On this Twelfth Day of Christmas, I wish you a fruitful, happy, healthy and absolutely wonderful New Year. The holidays may be drawing to a close, but here it’s Christmas All The Time. Stop in whenever you like. We’ll have the cocoa hot and the Christmas lights on for you all year long.