There are many reasons to love the holidays. Sometimes it is for family coming together possibly once a year, or the festivities that surround the holiday. Personally, I am one that enjoys driving through my neighborhood and seeing all of the lights and how creative people have been with decorating their homes.

One of the most enduring memories from my childhood is watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and laughing when Chevy Chase, playing the lovable Clark Griswold, finally turns on his house lights and blinds his neighbors in the process. We do love the idea of decorating the home for the holidays, but there are some precautions to take to avoid disaster during the holiday season. Try not blind your neighbors in the process.

Safety – I cannot stress how much this is something people just do not pay attention to. When living in Florida, my friend was putting up his holiday lights. He used a ladder and was very good about it. After everything was set up, he saw that one of his lights was not exactly in the correct place, so he decided to step on his garbage can to adjust it. If I had not been there to catch him, he would possibly have spent his holiday in the hospital. Be safe and do the right thing when it comes to putting up your lights. Use a ladder, make sure someone is there with you as well to help out. The more, the merrier.

Fireplaces – If you have a fireplace that has not been used in awhile, get someone out to clear the chimney. Make sure the trap is open as well. The last thing you want as a gift for the holidays is some animal getting caught in your chimney, and roasted by accident.

Ornaments – Try to avoid anything that may look like it should be eaten. I have an ornament from when I was in elementary school that was a glazed gingerbread Christmas tree. I use the term “was” because my dog thought it was a treat to eat while everyone was asleep. It caused a lot of commotion and a hefty vet bill. Keep ornaments higher up on the tree so little hands – or paws – can’t grab them or bat at them until the fall.

Tinsel – Animals and small children love shiny things. They love them so much; they tend to want to see what they taste like. Hang tinsel higher up on the tree and out of reach of kids and dogs. If you have cats that can climb the tree, leave the tinsel off the branches from now on.

Poinsettias – These plants are toxic to pets. Keep them out of reach of your animals. If you aren’t sure if your pet has ingested the plant, here are some symptoms to looks for: drooling, swelling, redness, vomiting, lip licking. Usually, the toxicity is mild, but if the symptoms are severe, take your pet to their vet.

Trees – If you have an animal that loves climbing, make sure you place your tree in a sturdy tree stand so you won’t be shouting “timber!” over the holidays. Real trees can be more flammable than plastic, so keep that in mind when you are choosing what kind to get. If you have a real tree versus a plastic one, understand that over time that tree is essentially going to be a gigantic fire risk. The tree sits in water while wrapped in electrical cords. If you don’t water it, the branches and needles dry out, easily becoming kindling for an accidental fire. Make sure you are using new light strands that do not overheat and keep an eye on the health of your tree.

Fires – Be it cooking, or your tree, always pay close attention to open flames or leaving something in the oven a little too long. Keep decorations away from the fire. If you decide to have a fire in the chimney and are burning boxes and piles of paper, always check for anything flammable inside the items before tossing them into the fire.