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Surviving The Most
Dangerous Time Of The Year

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Image by Erik and used under the terms of a Creative Commons agreement. Image has been cropped.
The Holiday Season, While Joyous, Compels Many Americans To Celebrate Their Way To Injury, Food Poisoning And Withered Bank Accounts


By Ryan Scott
Modern Times Magazine

Dec. 28, 2015 — Now that Christmas has passed into the Twilight Zone before New Year’s Day, those who survived should give thanks that they made it through what statistically is the most dangerous holiday of the year.

The holidays can be, and very often are, a very joyous and wonderful time of year for people all around the world. Families reunite, gifts are exchanged, bonuses are given by a little more than half of the companies in the U.S. to their hardworking employees. All of that can make it easy to forget that danger and unseen costs lurk around every corner during the holiday season.

No, these dangers do not include Krampus or other such fictional nonsense. Rather, a very real danger exists and it stems from the activities and traditions that define what Christmas is in America and around the world.

Over the course of weeks — and oftentimes months — before Dec. 25, families decorate the inside and outside of their houses with lights and other various decorations. Though this is a beloved tradition, it really should be undertaken with a bit more caution, because, as it turns out, this practice can be dangerous and costly for American families.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimated that there were roughly 15,000 injuries involving holiday decorating seen in emergency departments nationwide during November and December 2012, and that number has been rising every year since.

“There are about 250 injuries a day during the holiday season. Adding safety to your checklist can keep a holiday tradition from becoming a holiday tragedy,” said CPSC Acting Chairman Robert Adler in a statement.

The most frequently reported holiday decorating incidents that are seen in emergency departments according to the CPSC involved falls (34 percent), lacerations (11 percent) and back strains (10 percent).

Yes, movies like Home Alone and Christmas Vacation portray acts like stepping on broken ornaments, falling off ladders or Christmas trees being set on fire as humorous, but, they are actually the quickest ways to turn the holidays into the season of personal injury and mounting emergency room bills. No one would rather do that when they could be sipping eggnog, exchanging gifts, and avoiding their mother-in-law.

Yes, avoiding one’s mother-in-law is a time-honored holiday tradition that CAN be dangerous to one’s health.

Even if one manages to escape this festively-decorative death trap, there is also a nearly unavoidable financial expense that goes along with holiday decorations. That is unless one chooses to not participate in the tradition, which would likely come off as an attack on Christmas. So, social pressures forces people to at least put the obligatory wreath on the door and stash a hand-me-down tree in a corner.

And that can cost more than you think.

According to Forbes, the average American family spends $51 on decorations and $41 on a Christmas tree annually. So, in combination, decorative items alone will cost Americans on average $92. That might not seem like a lot until you consider that anyone can sponsor a poverty-stricken child through organizations like Compassion International for just $38 a month.

Now, once those lights and other decorations have been purchased, they need to be plugged in. In 2012, Wired came up with a rather complex equation to figure out what the cost is in America to run Christmas lights for the season. Though it did rely on estimates, the figure came out to $233 million for the month spanning from Dec. 1 to Jan. 1.

For those who did the math on that, $233 million would come out to 6,131,578.9 month's worth of feeding hungry kids.

Even if you can ignore all of the starving kids that decorations-obsessed Americans are inadvertently giving the middle finger, it can be a little bit exhausting looking at the numbers and trying to figure out if some pretty lights and plastic trees are worth that kind of money.

Oh, and Christmas trees, real or fake, are pretty awful for the environment, which is dangerous to the entire planet in the long run.

Firstly, fake trees, even though they are used over and over again, are made from petroleum based products, PVC, polyurethane foam and steel, which are all very bad for the long-term environmental outlook. Many of these trees are not recyclable and will probably sit and rot in landfills for hundreds of years.

A real tree is a much more natural option. According to the U.S. EPA, about 93 percent of the 33 million trees sold in North America are recycled through more than 4,000 available recycling programs. They also absorb a lot of harmful CO2 from the atmosphere during their lifespan.

However, natural trees are not without their own problems. Christmas trees are farmed as agricultural products, meaning that there are sometimes subjected to repeated applications of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers used throughout their lifetime. These products are known to be harmful for the environment as well. Also, trees don’t grow everywhere, so many of them have to travel hundreds of miles to reach the tree lot, which would clearly have a negative environmental impact as well.

So, in addition to being a time-honored symbol of the holiday season, Christmas trees are a big middle finger to Mother Nature. But, yes, they smell and look good and make people happy, so they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

And your holiday decorations aren’t the only traditions that are out to get you.

If the holidays aren’t about gifts, family or decorations, then they are definitely about food. As much as people love holiday food, it too represents some potential danger for unsuspecting lovers of turkey and cheese trays.

“Preparing and storing food safely can prevent foodborne illness from ruining their holiday gatherings and can even save a life,” said Tracey Weeks, DPH Food Protection Program Coordinator. “While most people who become ill due to food poisoning recover without any lasting effects from their illness, for some it can be devastating and even deadly.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in six Americans get sick each year from contaminated food.  Approximately 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die due to foodborne diseases across the country. While this is a year-long statistic, the months of November and December see these numbers spike.

Be it an improperly stored or prepared turkey or a food tray that sat out a little too long at the company Christmas party, there are ample opportunities for things to go wrong in the food department during the holiday season.

So, perhaps people should think twice before having at the sweaty cheese and salami on grandma’s party tray.

Decorations? Dangerous. Food? Gut-wrenching.

With all that negativity, was there possibly anything else threatening the world’s health and welfare this holiday season?

But, of course!

One of the biggest “dangers” of the holiday season is that people tend to forget what the meaning of the whole thing is and instead become entranced by consumerism. Black Friday is the perfect example of this as many workers must sacrifice their Thanksgiving holiday to work and shoppers sacrifice their holiday in order to get a Blu-Ray player.

This is important to note, because one of the biggest criticisms of Black Friday in the past is that it often could turn violent, leading to injuries and in some cases, even deaths. According to, a record 20 injuries were reported in 2011 but thanks to more e-commerce and preparedness by retailers, only one injury and no fatalities were recorded for 2015.

This year also saw Black Friday trending in a more positive direction on other fronts.

Many retailers including Gamestop and Sam’s Club refused to open their doors on Thanksgiving day and waited until Friday to open their doors for the big savings. Also, a Salesforce study found that many more consumers opted for online shopping as opposed to fighting the crowds at a physical store.

Those numbers are encouraging, because the holidays should be a joyous time to gather with friends and family. Everyone should keep these statistics in the fore of their mind in December 2016 and make a best effort to have a safe and fun holiday that is free of food poisoning or emergency room visits.

That just might be the best gift anyone could give.
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