The Christmas carols are already playing nonstop in shopping malls and on the radio. Before you know it, Christmas day will arrive. Whether that means flying off to visit far-flung friends and relatives, or inviting the extended family into your own home, follow these tips to have a meaningful, and safe, holiday season.
Your Christmas Tree
The tree is the monument around which many families' Christmas celebrations revolve. But beware-- every year an average of 210 homes experience fires caused by their tree, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
To avoid becoming an unhappy statistic, look for a tree with fresh needles that isn't dried out, and place it in an area clear of any heat sources. Use LED light strands, which produce very little heat, and never hang actual candles from the tree. Dispose of it after Christmas once it starts getting dry and the needles are falling off. If you use an artificial tree, make sure it is labeled “fire resistant.”
You also want to ensure the tree is set up securely. At best, a fallen Christmas tree is a shame, and at worst it could cause a hazard, possibly knocking over other items and leaving broken glass, frayed wires, spilled water in its wake.
Don't forget about wire safety. Make sure that none of the cords to your lights are frayed and the plugs are in good working order. Try to avoid an extension cord, but if one is necessary inspect it as well, and ensure it doesn't present a tripping hazard in your house. Finally, don't overload a single outlet with too many lights or you can risk tripping the circuit or even creating a fire hazard.
Candles are an important part of many family holiday decorations, and not just for Christmas. The menorah is a centerpiece of the eight-day Hanukkah celebration, with a new candle lit each day. And people who observe Kwanza light candles to commemorate seven principles of African heritage. Whatever religious or secular tradition you follow, candles bring warmth and light to stave off the darkness of winter.
While the candles are beautiful and significant, their open flame can also be dangerous to people, pets and your home. For safety, lit candles should never be left unattended, and never placed in an area where a child or pet could get burned or knock them over. Also make sure they aren't near any flammable material like curtains.
If you want to make a semi-permanent window scene for the holiday, it's better to get an electric menorah or other display, and save the real candles for a supervised and temporary ceremony.
In the Kitchen
The same precautions that apply to candles also apply to gas stoves and their open flames. Take care that guests don’t bump into the stove or hot pots and pans. Also, some cultures call for fried foods, such as the Hanukkah tradition of frying potato latkes and jelly doughnuts. Enjoy the delicious meals but be careful not to splash cooking oil around the kitchen, which is another fire hazard.
Your Outdoor Display
It's fun to turn your yard into a scene from the North Pole. Just make sure that any lights and other equipment is rated for outdoor use and won't short out in a snow or rainstorm. As with indoor lights, inspect the cords for any damage and discard those that aren't in top shape. If you need an extension cord, make sure it's rated for the outdoors as well, and don't let it run through puddles or across walkways.
With just minor precautions, you can ensure a safe holiday season focused on family and tradition.