We all like to think that the Holiday Season brings out the best in us. What a lie. I find that a lot of people are grouchier during the holidays than at any other time of the year.
As for me, Christmas has become so commercialized that I find it harder and harder to get into the Holiday Spirit. But something happened the day after Thanksgiving this year that opened my mind and heart to what Christmas is all about.
As I sat on my friend Anna’s porch sipping wine I was witness to the most wonderful thing, brotherly love. Eric, Anna’s husband, and their neighbor Steve were decorating their homes for the Holidays. But they were not just decorating at the same time; they were decorating to complement each other houses. The camaraderie was unspoken, the joy obvious and the laugher contagious.
Watching them work side by side, assisting each other as if they were reading each other’s mind filled me with happy tears. Every Holiday season I hear of fights breaking out between neighbors because one does not like the other’s style and feels it attracts too much attention. Or I hear stories of the neighbors who try to outdo each other every year. These types of rivalries just suck the joy out of the holidays, especially if you happen to live next door to one.
As a very busy mother of two young children I sometimes struggle to keep the meaning of Christmas foremost in my mind. That’s why this simple decorating celebration touched me so much. It’s really nice to know that there are people who do care about their neighbors and the negative stories we sometimes hear are, hopefully, the exception.
One thing I love about the Christmas holiday is that it gives us the excuse to get creative. As an interior designer, I have to admit that I love to decorate my own apartment so that my visitors are impressed form the moment they walk in the door. While this is great fun, don’t forget that playing with electricity is no joke.
The leading cause of fire during the holidays is improper use of cords, plugs and candles. So this year, and for the years to come, please make sure that your Christmas décor is not only beautiful but safe for the whole family.
Safety points to remember:
• Any string of lights with worn, frayed or broken cords should not be used
• Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use
• Plug all outdoor electric decorations into circuits with ground fault circuit interrupters to avoid potential shocks
• Never used lit candles on or around Christmas Tree
• When buying an artificial tree, make sure it’s labeled "Fire Resistant." while this label does not mean the tree won’t catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning
• Maintain live tree as moist as possible, water daily
• Place tree at least three feet from any heat source, such as fireplace or radiator
• Place tree as close as possible to outlet to prevent tripping over cords
• Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord
• Do not place tree where it can prevent families from exiting the home in an emergency
• Always unplug Christmas lights before leaving home or going to sleep
• Extinguish all candles when leaving the room or going to sleep
• Do not allow dried out Christmas tree to remain in home, remove safely and do not place again home or in a garage, highly flammable in dried condition
• Do not leave cooking food unattended, keep an eye on range
• All lit candles in the house should sit on candleholders that are sturdy, and made from material that can't burn, make sure that the base of the candleholder is large enough to collect dripping wax
• After a party, if you allow smoking in your home, always check on, between and under upholstery and cushions and inside trashcans for cigarette butts that may be smoldering
• Clean up immediately after a party. A child could rise early the next morning and choke on leftover food or come in contact with alcohol or tobacco
• When at someone else’s party, remember that not all homes are created equal, keep an eye on your child for danger spots, not all homes are childproofed
Last but not least enjoy your Holiday!!
Marlene Pratt is the co-founder of Casa Latina, an interior designer and on-air television host on both English and Spanish-language television. Follow Marlene on Twitter at @CasaLatinaToday and Like her FB page