Christmas Safety Tips: Staying Safe For the Holidays

Overview

We love Christmas as much as the next team of safety and security experts, but we're the first to admit that not everything about the holiday is jolly. Between online fraud, porch pirates, house fires, wicked winter storms, and poisonous poinsettias, there are lots of ways for your yuletide to go south (and we don't mean to Cabo). So whether you're a Cratchit or a Scrooge, read on for basic Christmas safety tips to keep your holiday season merry and bright.

Safety tips for Christmas shopping online

Everybody loves the holidays, but maybe nobody loves them more than online thieves. The percentage of holiday shopping taking place online grows every year, so it makes sense that internet bandits spring into action during Christmas—all those credit card numbers dancing like sugar plums in their heads.1

That's why we weren't surprised that recent online shopping stats show Christmas isn't just the most wonderful time of the year—it might also be the most fraudulent.2

The number of online holiday purchases and fraudulent transactions have increased in tandem over the years. That's one Christmas trend you don't want to follow, so follow these tips instead:

If you plan to do most of your Christmas shopping in pajamas, be sure to check out our full guide on online shopping safety.


Christmas home security tips

You can't be in two places at once, and thieves know it. While you're out hunting down the perfect stocking stuffer, suffering through enjoying the children's pageant, or chugging eggnog at the office holiday party, burglars are seeking signs that the coast is clear to break into your car or home.

Here are some ways to thwart these aspiring Grinches: 

Case your own property and think like a robber

Don a black mask, look at your home through a burglar's eyes, and ask yourself a few questions: How would you break in? Does it look like someone is home? Are your valuables in an obvious place? You want to be the cat in this game of Cat and Mouse.

Lock everything

Your house, your car, your garage, wherever you're hiding the presents—if it has a lock, use it! Porch traffic increases during the holidays—house guests, the vast army of delivery people, carolers a-wassailing. With so many people coming and going, you shouldn't gift wrap your property and possessions for a burglar by leaving your doors unlocked. 

Leave the light on

It's a simple and effective way to deter intruders. When house lights and electronics like TVs are on, they signal to would-be robbers that someone might be home. (But don't leave Christmas lights on—they can pose a fire risk.)

Let AI worry about the lights and locks
Protip

One of the benefits of a smart lock is that you can program it to lock automatically after a set period of time—say, 10 minutes—so you never have to worry about leaving your home unsecured.

And with smart plugs and smart home automation, there are many ways for you to easily give the impression you're home when you're really not.

Secure valuables

Never leave anything of value in plain sight . . . except cookies for Santa, of course. Keep your jewelry, extra cash, or other valuables in a safe at home or safe deposit box at the bank. Try not to be obvious about where you stash your goods—the master bedroom is the first place any intruder will check for valuables. Well, there or under the Christmas tree.

Install a doorbell camera

If you want a quick and easy way to monitor your entryways, consider a doorbell cam. If you don't know which one is right for you, check out our reviews of the best doorbell cameras on the market.

Activate your alarm system

Make arming your home security system part of your daily morning routine so it becomes a habit. But we know the holiday mind is a distracted mind—lights flashing all around you, arms overflowing with gifts, reindeer soaring overhead—so if you do fail to activate your alarm on your way out the door, hopefully you’ve chosen a system that can arm it remotely. If you don't have a home security system or don't like the one you have, check out our recommendations for the best home security systems.
Best Home Security Systems
Frontpoint
Best Value
Our rating:
4.5 out of 5 stars4.5
SimpliSafe
Most Flexible
Our rating:
4.3 out of 5 stars4.3
Vivint
Best High-End System
Our rating:
4.2 out of 5 stars4.2
Ring
Best DIY
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4.2 out of 5 stars4.2
ADT
Most Experienced
Our rating:
3.7 out of 5 stars3.7

Control your social status

The desire to spread holiday FOMO may tempt you to brag about your holiday travels or shopping sprees, but you should resist the urge to broadcast to the whole world that you are not going to be home.

If you absolutely must livestream the bare-knuckle boxing match that erupted in aisle 13 over the last Barbie Dreamplane Playset (or whatever the kids are into this year), then use the privacy settings on your social media profiles to share your location only with people you trust.

Resist the urge to broadcast to the whole world that you are not going to be home.

Don't advertise all your fun, new stuff

After the holiday, think twice about placing the packaging and gift wrap from your Christmas haul on the curb for garbage/recycling pickup—you might as well send robbers a full-color catalog of your stealable possessions. Break boxes down and stuff them in the proper cans. Your waste removal folks will thank you, and criminals will just walk on by.

Skipping town for the holiday?

Check out our recommendations on how to protect your home while on vacation.


Safety tips for Christmas trees and other holiday decorations

If you're going to show the neighborhood who's the boss of Christmas decorations, you'll need a big tree, lots of lights, and loads of power. But restrain your inner Clark Griswold and don't overdo it!

Christmas trees and holiday decorations present real risks for fire safety. According to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) research, between 2013–2017:

Christmas Tree
  • Home fires caused by Christmas trees accounted for "three deaths, 15 injuries, and $10 million in direct property damage annually."
  • House fires caused by holiday decorations other than Christmas trees were responsible for "an annual average of three civilian fire deaths, 34 civilian fire injuries, and $12 million in direct property damage."
  • "Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 44% of home Christmas tree fires."3

But fires aren't the only way Christmas trees and decorations can make your Navidad muy un-feliz. We've put together these safety tips to help you prevent not only holiday fires but also falls, accidental poisonings, and electrocution:

Safety tips for Christmas trees

Whether your tree is big and tall, short and squat, fake or real, or some combination thereof, follow these tips to make sure you place and decorate your Christmas tree safely:

  • Move trees at least three feet away from heat sources like candles, fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, and heat vents.
  • If you prefer fake fir, choose an artificial tree that's flame retardant.
  • Water your live tree daily. As a rule of thumb, your tree needs one quart of water for every inch of trunk diameter (sorry, you'll have to do some math). Dry trees can go up in flames in less than 60 seconds.4
  • Don't let your pets consume pine needles. While pine needles aren't lethal, the tree oils they contain can cause oral and digestive discomfort in pets.
  • Keep a close eye on kids and pets so they don't pull the tree or decorations down on themselves. This goes for drunk uncles too.
  • Protect your neck and use a stepladder to put that angel or star on top.
  • Put your fire extinguisher somewhere you can get to it quickly.

Dos and don'ts for holiday lights

Here are some tips to make sure your holiday lights spark only joy:

  • Do purchase only UL-listed lights and extension cords.
  • Do choose products that are rated for outdoor use if you are decorating outdoors.
  • Do inspect lights for any damage—like missing bulbs, frayed wires, or broken plugs—that may have occurred in storage.
  • Do unplug lights before you change bulbs.
  • Do check your lights every now and again to make sure the wires are not warm to the touch.
  • Do turn off your Christmas lights before going to bed or leaving the house. We get it—you spent all that time decorating and you want to show it off. But you don't want to run the risk of coming home or waking up to a house fire.
  • Don't use a metal ladder. If you need to climb a ladder to hang lights, use a wooden or fiberglass-reinforced plastic ladder to avoid electrical shocks.
  • Don't connect too many strings of lights together. The general rule is three, but check the packaging for the manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Don't overload surge protectors, extension cords, or sockets.

Safety tips for other holiday decorations

If you've gone full-on with your holiday decorations, you may have safety concerns beyond your tree and lights. Here are a few more Christmas safety tips you might not have thought about:

  • Poinsettias can be poisonous, but they are not as dangerous as commonly thought. If eaten, they might cause an upset stomach in pets and people, but they're unlikely to kill.5 We're not so sure about fruitcakes.
  • Holiday thieves don't just want your packages—check the news and you'll see they want your decorations too. So secure your plastic Santa and reindeer to the porch. We told you criminals love the holidays!
  • It may be a holiday, but rules of consent still apply, so don't hang mistletoe and try to kiss strangers. Respecting personal boundaries at holiday gatherings will help all guests feel welcome and safe.

Sidewalk safety tips

Lots of popular Christmas songs extol the virtues of snow, but not one addresses how much it sucks to shovel it. Here are some snow-removal safety tips that pick up where "White Christmas" and "Let It Snow" leave off:

  • Throw salt on your sidewalks and driveway before it snows. This will help keep it from icing over and getting more slippery.
  • Don't shovel until all the snow has fallen. There's no sense in spending an hour in the middle of snowfall just to have all of your hard work ruined. However, see the following rule for a key exception.
  • If the snow is going to fall continuously over a long period of time, shovel it in phases to keep up—you don't want to break your back moving three days of snowfall in one go.
  • Use hand warmers in your boots and gloves when you shovel the snow to keep you warm, but avoid direct skin contact.
  • When shoveling, lift with your legs and not your back. Don't put too much snow on your shovel, and always lift it properly.
  • Read our full article on winter storm safety tips if you're expecting nasty weather.

That's our list of Christmas safety tips—we hope you'll be checking it twice to keep your holiday merry and safe!


Sources

  1. Statista, "Holiday Season Sales as Percentage of Total Holiday Retail Sales in the United States from 2015 to 2019"
  2. ACI Worldwide, "U.S. Online Fraud Attempts Increase 22 Percent during 2017 Holiday Shopping Season"
  3. National Fire Protection Association, "Winter Holiday Fire Facts"
  4. National Fire Protection Association, "Winter Holiday Fire Facts"
  5. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, "Poinsettia"; WebMD, "Is Poinsettia Really Poisonous?"