Believe it or not, there are other things more important around the holiday season than Black Fridays, perusing the stores for last-minute gifts for the young ones, or remembering that favorite meat and cheese gift for old Uncle Harry. It is safety in our hurry-scurry world that is often forgotten or overlooked. Safety on the roads as well as in our homes. That adage, “haste makes waste,” is especially true around these busy holidays.

An often scoffed at reminder is to keep your live tree watered and hydrated throughout the entire holiday season, especially if you keep it up until the first of January like many do.

When first erected inside your home, a fresh, new cut at the base will allow the tree to swallow up to a quart of water each day for several days before slowly reaching full hydration. Once this happens it tends to be forgotten, sometime up to a week, with the thought that it isn’t necessary anymore or possibly more important chores; (more important chores?). This kind of oversight could (and sometimes is) the loss of your family’s home or even, heaven forbid, a fatal mistake.

Firemen will quite often visit schools or a public event preaching the dangers of dry, brittle trees that can explode in flames and envelop a house in seconds. No one wants anything like this to happen, so take the necessary precautions and check the needles often to see if they still bend and can’t be easily pulled from the branch. If they are brittle and fall off readily, remove it at once, even if it means removing all the lights and decorations prematurely. It may be disheartening, but it could be a lifesaver.

Manufactured trees are not nearly the risk because most are treated with a fire-resistant chemical, but even these present a minor risk because of wires that may short out or trees may be wrongfully placed next to a fireplace or wood-burning stove.

While trees are the most dangerous hazards, there are other manufactured holiday decorations that contain lights, electrically-operated pieces or even those that might contain a candle or candles that could spell disaster.

Always — not just at the holidays — check and replace smoke detector batteries on a yearly basis or at minimum, make sure they are operating correctly. It might be a good idea to replace all these batteries at the same time your Christmas tree goes into your house; it will help give you peace of mind.

And while we’re at it, let’s not forget what this special day is all about. It is because of the birth of Jesus Christ and with that goes the gathering of families to honor him and to enjoy each other’s company with food, conversation and gifts.

My wife and I have entertained our children, all six of them who are now 50 through 60 years old, for the holidays for 43 years and this year the decision was made to pass the baton to them. We also have 37 grand- and great-grandchildren, so it is quite a gathering when all are together.

In the famous words of Marshall V. King, “I’m hungry, let’s eat.”

Tom Yoder is a Master Gardener who resides in Goshen. He can be reached by phone at 533-0172 or by email at

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