‘Tis the season to be merry, but be wary of these surprisingly common holiday decor disasters.

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When it comes to holiday decor, there's no shortage dos and don'ts. Of course, they're all just opinion–do buy a real tree, don't put your decor up too early, do take it all down promptly. The list goes on. When it comes to timing and style, it should be about what makes you happy. But when it comes to safety there really are a few dos and don'ts to take seriously. A big fall or small fire is enough to not just put a damper on the holiday but cause serious harm. So whether you decorate weeks (maybe months!) in advance or the day before, here's how to go about it in the safest way possible.

Fireplace with Nearby Christmas Tree, Stockings Hanging from Mantel, Presents, and Melted Candles
Credit: Getty/Tom Merton

Too Many Candles, Too Close

According to the National Fire Protection Association, Christmas Day sets the record for fires started by candles, with nearly three times the daily average. More than half of such fires are attributable to candles being too close to materials that could burn, from furniture to holiday decorations. Keep candles away from other objects, and never leave them unattended. And the easiest solution of all: simply switch to battery-operated.

Christmas Tree with Dropped Needles
Credit: Getty/Siede Preis

Buying the Wrong Tree

Nope, this isn't another debate about artificial vs. real trees. Whichever you buy, there are a few things to keep in mind. When purchasing an artificial tree, make sure it's labeled "fire resistant." When shopping for a live tree, check for freshness; it should be green and needles should be intact. Look for sticky resin on the bottom and needles that bend, not break. While trees are not the leading cause of holiday fires, their proximity to heat sources makes them an inherent risk, so be sure yours is fresh or fire resistant.

Fireplace with Christmas Fire Hazards, Stockings, Presents, and Christmas Tree
Credit: Getty/GMVozd

Setting the Tree in the Wrong Place

Avoid setting the tree up by radiators, vents, heaters, or fireplaces, all of which dry out the tree that much quicker. FEMA advises at least three feet from any kind of heat source. Check the tree's water level daily to keep it healthy and fresh and throw it out as soon as it dries out.

Potted Poinsettia Plants in Greenhouse
Credit: Getty/Kathrin Ziegler

Picking Poisonous Plants

For pet owners, certain flowers and plants can be a dangerous addition to the home. The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that seasonal favorites like amaryllis, mistletoe, balsam, pine, cedar, holly, and poinsettias could harm pets. Keep holiday flowers and greenery out of reach of four-legged family members or opt for faux. 

Golden Retriever Laying on Wrapping Paper and Tinsel
Credit: Getty/Bill Varie

Too Much Tinsel

Another threat to curious pets? Ribbon, string, and tinsel used to wrap presents and zhush up the tree. If you've got an investigative pet, maybe skip the tinsel on the tree (or keep it out of reach), and clean up as you go when unwrapping presents to keep these all-too-easy-to-ingest materials out of pets' mouths.

Person Balancing on Small Ladder Putting Lights on Christmas Tree
Credit: Getty/AlenaPaulus

Lack of Ladder Safety

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports roughly 200 decorating-related injuries daily during the holiday season, with about half of those related to falls. Save yourself a trip to the ER by following a few basic protocols. Start by using a ladder that extends three feet over the roofline for outdoor jobs and set up single-extension ladders at a 75-degree angle. Make sure the ladder is on level, solid ground. And finally, wear shoes and check to ensure the rungs are dry before you start climbing.

Messy Christmas Lights in Extension Cord
Credit: Getty/Beau Lark/Corbis/VCG

Electrical Overload

When it comes to lights, a little goes a long way. (Sorry, Clark Griswold!) The CPSC advises no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. Shop for lights that have been tested for safety and use indoor lights inside and outdoor lights, well, outside. And – as frustrating as it is – throw out any cords and lights that are loose, frayed, cracked, or otherwise damaged. (And if it's time to do a little shopping…we have a few festive ideas!)