Over Christmas I love the glitter of lights, sparkle of ornaments, festive colours, aromas of delicious meals shared, and time spent with friends and family. It can also be a season of excess, stress, and hidden dangers. I’m much better at slowing things down than I used to be. My daughter is a teen and wants to spend every cent of hers (and mine) on things to wrap under the tree. My whippet is a thief who will nab anything that smells good within his extended 5 foot reach. Having a holiday that is not only remarkable but safe and sensible is my wish for them and for you this year.
Don’t be tempted to overspend. The stores are beckoning. We are surrounded by commercialism and retailers are claiming huge sales. Resist! Set a budget that you can afford for décor, entertaining, and gifting, and stick to it. A friend shared her brilliant Christmas mantra recently for gift buying for the kids: something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read. Why do we think we have to give more?
Don’t overdo. You have decorations to go up, parties to attend, shopping and cooking and entertaining to get done, last minute work details to finish up, kids to keep amused over the break, family responsibilities, a house to be cleaned, and cleaned again and again, and perhaps packing and travelling to plan and execute… oh my. Relax! Make sure you treat yourself over the holidays to a lightened load. Choose your favourite activities then delegate, hire help, throw away any perfectionist tendencies, or just say no.
Be aware of health risks. Make sure ornaments and artificial trees have been stored in a dry place to prevent mold and mildew. Be aware that many festive berries and flowers, such as mistletoe and poinsettias, are poisonous. Avoid foods with possible nasty side effects, such as raw cookie dough and leftovers kept around too long. For those with allergies, pay close attention to food labels and prepared foods you don’t tend to eat any other time of the year.
Safety first. MailOnline printed these American projections in December 2012: More than 80,000 people are expected to get an unwanted present of a trip to hospital during the 12 days of Christmas, including 6,000 on Christmas Day itself, according to safety campaigners. Rushing to open presents, problems putting toys together, trailing cables from new electrical goods and kitchen disasters all play a part. About 1,000 people have to receive treatment following mishaps with Christmas trees, while another 1,000 are hurt by trimmings or when decorating their homes. And about 350 people are injured by tree lights, either by falling, being burned or getting an electric shock putting them up or with children swallowing the bulbs.
Yikes! Be careful! And always make sure that guests who have been drinking have a safe way to get home.
Safety guidelines for the tree and trimmings:
- Look for a Fire Resistant Label on artificial trees; use non-combustible or flame resistant ornaments to trim the tree
- Don’t place trees near a heat source; also avoid walkways, doors, and your fire escape route
- With everything moved to accommodate the tree, beware of new climbing opportunities for kids and pets
- Avoid sharp, delicate, and small tree ornaments within reach of children
- Avoid decorations that look like sweets, which may tempt a child to eat them
- Check each set of lights carefully for cracks, frays, bare wires, and loose connections
- If bulbs need to be replaced, do so when the lights are switched off
Keeping our furry friends safe:
- Holiday favourites, including chocolate, onions, nuts, blue cheese, fruit cakes, puddings and mince pies, as well as holly, mistletoe and poinsettia, can all be toxic to dogs. Watch out for turkey bones too.
- Keep your tree watered and vacuum often. Fallen pine and spruce needles if chewed can make a pet sick and can get painfully stuck in paws.
- Shiny, jingly ornaments can be a great temptation for cats and some dogs. Tinsel can be especially damaging if it gets into your pet’s intestines. Chewing on electrical cords can give a nasty shock.
- Watch out for toys with batteries. If the battery is chewed and pierced it can cause chemical burns and heavy metal poisoning. If they are swallowed whole it is possible they will cause an obstruction.
- Dogs can smell what is in the wrapped packages under the tree even if we don’t. They can sniff out that box of chocolate and have it ripped open and consumed in no time. Best case scenario is diarrhea in the middle of your family Christmas; worst case is a trip to emergency. If you are giving a wrapped gift that may be harmful to pets or children, let the recipient know so they can place it somewhere safe.
- Perhaps a less well-known yet serious winter-time danger for dogs is ethylene glycol (anti-freeze). It is sweet-tasting and very palatable. Even a relatively small quantity can cause serious kidney damage and can be fatal.