Dangers of Christmas - #11 - Decking the Halls
At the beginning of December the Huffington Post featured an article on the 12 dangers of Christmas.
The article focused on fire safety during the holiday season. They covered everything from your Christmas tree drying out and catching the drapes on fire to burning down your home while preparing your roast beast.
The article got me thinking, what if there were other dangers during Christmas? What if, aside from falling off your roof while working on your light display and over roasting your chestnuts, there were hidden dangers during the season of advent that most of us overlook.
Over the next 15 days I am going to share my 12 dangers of Christmas. So here we go,
#11 - Decking the Halls
Decking the halls is not something that Christianity or Christmas has a monopoly on. The practice of decking the halls dates back centuries as ancient people celebrated the coming season of growth and renewal. Romans would decorate their homes with evergreen wreaths and trees as they celebrated the god of agriculture. Druids used evergreens to symbolize everlasting life throughout their temples. Decorating homes in anticipation of a holiday or celebration is something that humans have been doing forever.
According to the CDC 15,000 people will injure themselves during the months of November and December due to incidents involving holiday decorations. I can remember back to 2001 when I almost feel off the roof of my mom's house as I attempted to hang icicle lights along the edge of the roof. There is always the clips of Christmas Vacation where Clark Griswold either staples himself to the house or falls off the roof.
I love decorating for Christmas. I love decorating my house, my grandmother's house, the church, and anything else that needs to be decorated. Holiday decorations add to the festive time that is Christmas. As a Boy Scout each year my troop would sell Christmas trees along South Jefferson Street. I loved helping families find the perfect tree for their home.
Decorating for Christmas should be a family affair. Dad on the ladder, son holding the ladder, daughter stringing lights around the windows, mom directing everyone, and grandma passed out from too much eggnog.
According to the NFPA:
In a study of fall-related injuries during the holiday season, Stevens and Vajani estimated that an annual average of roughly 5,800 fall injuries related to holiday decorating were treated at hospital emergency rooms between November 1 and January 31 in 2000-2001, 2001-2002, and 2002-2003. Sixty-two percent of those injured were between 20 and 49 years of age, compared to 43% of the population in this age group. With 43% of the injuries resulting from falls from ladders and 13% caused by falls from the roof, it appears that the majority of these falls occurred during outdoor decorating. Falls from furniture, typically inside the structure, accounted for 11% of the injuries. Some falls occurred when people tripped over or slipped on tree skirts or other decorations.
Decorating accidents do not have to limited to the exterior of your home. Frayed wires, dried up trees, and candles can take the yule out your your yule log in a hurry! Growing up it was not uncommon for us to overload an electrical circuit, to the point that if you wanted to turn on the microwave we had to turn off the winter wonderland in the front yard.
The NFPA adds:
Holiday lights and other decorative lighting with line voltage were involved in an estimated average of 150 home structure fires per year in this same period. These fires caused an average of nine civilian deaths, 16 civilian injuries, and $8.4 million in direct property damage per year. Two out of five (40%) occurred in December and 12% were in January. Fifteen percent of these fires began with Christmas trees. Electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in nearly two-thirds (64%) of the fires involving holiday or decorative lights.
So as you put your 8 foot tall baby Jesus on the roof remember to check that 20 year old ladder that was handed down to you by your dad when he wised up and bought a new one, and maybe grab a new extension cord or spread your decorations requiring electricity over a few circuits (you could even use your neighbors)!