Decorate Safely This Holiday Season

Decorate safely this holiday season. Electric snowflake decoration.

Learn to follow simple safety steps and decorate safely this holiday season. Are you one of the millions of Americans who decorates for the holidays? Holiday decorations bring beauty and pizzazz to homes, businesses, and gathering places, making the season feel special. Installing these decorations can be challenging and poses safety risks. To keep Christmas merry, Kwanzaa blessed, and Hanukkah happy, take the time to understand risks and safety practices for putting up and enjoying holiday decorations.

Understand the Risks

Fire Hazards

Perhaps the number one cause of holiday fires, both real and artificial Christmas trees can pose fire risks. According to the National Fire Protection Association, Christmas trees alone were responsible for an average of 160 home fires per year between 2013-2017. Some of the risk factors included dry needles on real trees and placement close to heating sources such as fireplaces or space heaters. Additionally, there were an average of 780 structure fires per year between 2013-2017 that were caused by holiday decorations other than Christmas trees. Candles were responsible for an average of 22 home fires annually during the same period.

Fall Hazards

Ever find yourself on the top rung of the ladder, stretching awkwardly to hang the last few feet of your Christmas light strand? Cannon Law reported that 422 people visited emergency departments in 2017 for Christmas decoration-related injuries specifically involving ladders, step-stools, or chairs. According to the article, “Interestingly, men were injured while using ladders much more often than women were.  This suggests that men are much more likely to be hanging decorations and lights in high places where a ladder is necessary – or that they are less careful when using ladders.”

Laceration Hazards

Christmas morning brings presents to open, and some provide a challenge. Because people struggle to open difficult packaging with scissors or knives, many accidentally cut themselves. Lacerations topped the list of Christmas-related emergency room visits between 2008-2017, Cannon Law reports. Some lacerations also came from people cutting or trimming their Christmas trees.

Choking Hazards

Ornaments and tree decorations can pose choking hazards for small children and pets and should be kept out of reach. Because some ornaments look like food or candy, children may think they are edible. As a general rule, anything small enough for a child or pet to put in their mouth could become a choking hazard and deserves special consideration. This includes ornament hooks, tinsel, angel hair, icicles, small lights, and pieces of toys. 

How to Decorate Safely This Holiday Season


1.) Place trees far away from heat sources. Although artificial trees are generally safer than real trees, and are often flame resistant, both kinds of trees should be placed far away from heat sources.

2.) Water real trees regularly. This prevents dryness and reduces the risk of fire.

3.) Use a sturdy stand. Prevent your tree from getting knocked over by children or pets.

4.) Hang ornaments above the reach of children and pets. Make sure any potential choking hazards stay far away.


1.) Inspect lights for broken sockets, damaged wires, and loose connections. Do not use damaged light sets.

2.) Do not string more than three sets of lights together.

3.) Turn off lights before bedtime or when no one will be home.

4.) Use artificial, battery operated candles to reduce fire hazards.


1.) Use an appropriate ladder for the environment and your weight. Make sure your ladder allows you to reach without standing on the top rung or straining, and make sure you can set up your ladder on a stable surface.

2.) Do not use a ladder to hang lights during windy or slippery weather conditions. Wait for better weather.

3.) Always grip the rungs of the ladder and maintain three points of contact with the ladder at all times. Visit the National Safety Council’s ladder safety page for more information.


The U.S. Consumer Safety Commission has published guidelines with more information to help you decorate safely this holiday season. The guide includes safety tips for real and artificial trees, candles, artificial snow, lights, tree trimmings and more.


We at the National Safety Education Center wish you and yours happy holidays and a safe New Year!

NSEC Website

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