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Decorate for Joy – Christmas Trees and Holiday Safety

Decorating a Christmas tree is one of the joys of the Holiday Season. The National Safety Council has some suggestions for keeping an accident from marring your winter holidays.


If you select a natural tree, make sure it is fresh to reduce the risk of a fire hazard. A fresh tree is very green, its trunk butt is sticky with resin, its needles are hard to pull from their branches, and the needles will bend between your fingers without breaking.

If you will be away for several days and unable to care for a live tree, or if your home is unusually dry, consider an artificial tree. These trees should be made of flame-retardant materials, but not all are. Be sure the label on your tree clearly specifies that it is fire resistant.


Trees need moisture to stay fresh longer. Cut about two inches off the trunk and place the tree in a stand kept filled with water.

Keep all trees a safe distance from fireplaces, radiators, TVs, and other sources of heat. If a natural tree’s needles will no longer bend easily, or if the needles are easily plucked from their branch, the tree should go outside.


Check for the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) label on your lights to be sure they meet certain minimum electrical safety requirements. Never connect more than three strands of lights to one extension cord and check to be sure the cord is not frayed or missing its grounding pin.

Do not use electric lights on metallic trees – a faulty socket could electrify every branch! Use spotlights instead for illumination.


Never use lit candles on a tree. They may add romance to the holiday season, but they can also add danger.

If you use lit candles elsewhere, make sure they are in sturdy, non-flammable holders. Avoid placing them near drapes, curtains, and decorations, or within reach of children.


Make sure artificial decorations are labeled “flame resistant” or “fire retardant.” Such decorations may burn, however, if you spray them with artificial snow.

Choose tinsel or artificial icicles made of plastic or metals other than lead. Materials containing lead are hazardous if ingested by children.

Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of reach of children and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food. A child could eat them!

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