Make happy memories this month

Yet another year has nearly passed, and it’s time again to decorate homes, wrap gifts and prepare feasts for friends and family (unless you’re like me and lack any skill in the kitchen whatsoever). Christmas music has already been playing on the radio for maybe a little too long, and many of us are ready to take some well-deserved vacation time.

As we look forward to family traditions and general merrymaking, let’s make sure the memories we make are happy ones. With that in mind, here’s a list that you may also want to check twice.

O Christmas tree

  • For those who prefer live trees, make sure the one you choose is fresh and green. Water it regularly to keep it from drying out and acting as kindling should something spark.
  • If you opt for an artificial tree, make sure it is labeled fire-resistant. Remember, fire-resistant isn’t the same as fireproof.
  • Whether it’s real or fake, position it in an area free of fireplaces, vents and radiators.

Deck the halls

  • Avoid lights that haven’t been approved by an independent testing laboratory. If you’re not sure, err on the side of caution and purchase new ones.
  • Check the strands to ensure they are intact and aren’t giving off heat.
  • Replace any strands that show damage, including broken bulbs, bare or frayed wires or loose connections, to prevent electric shock or fire.
  • Don’t overload electrical outlets.
  • Make sure the lights on the tree are off when you’re asleep or away.

Baby, it’s cold outside

  • When decorating outdoors, steer clear of power lines and utility poles.
  • Only use decorations rated for outdoor use.
  • Make sure to plug lights and other decorations requiring an electrical connection into outlets with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Portable GFCIs can be purchased online.
  • Use plastic hooks to hang lights — it is not safe to use staples or nails.

Here comes Santa Claus

  • Check age range recommendations before purchasing gifts for children. They are there for a reason.
  • Caution kids about electrical safety if they receive a product that requires electricity.
  • Review instructions and safety guidelines prior to use.

Something’s cooking in the kitchen

  • Check your small appliances and their electric cords. Don’t use if cords are cracked or frayed.
  • Read the instructions before operating a new appliance.
  • If purchasing new cooking appliances, opt for UL-listed models with an automatic shutoff feature.
  • Refrain from plugging more than one high-wattage appliance into a single outlet.
  • Ensure outlets near the kitchen sink are equipped with a GFCI.
  • Keep a working fire extinguisher in the kitchen.


Just a few simple steps taken as you prepare for the holidays have the potential to keep your loved ones safe and sound this season. Give yourself a gift this year — the gift of peace of mind. There’s a bonus with this one: It doesn’t cost a thing.

All of us at Illinois Country Living and the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives wish you a safe and happy holiday season.