Trimming the tree is one of the most cherished of Christmas traditions. Just make sure those twinkly
lights, that silvery tinsel and those breakable ornaments don't cause a holiday mishap.

Related: Quiz: Test Your Holiday Safety Smarts

Be bright about lights

When you drag out last year's lights from the attic or closet, inspect them for worn or broken wires or cracked sockets. If you find any, don't try to repair them. Toss the entire string and buy a new one, advises John Drengenberg, consumer safety director for UL.

If you have the older-style incandescent lights, make sure not to overload when connecting lighting strings, says Drengenberg. Check the label for maximum wattage.

If you have a mixture of incandescent and LED strands, don't connect them together at all, according to the Canada Safety Council.

Before turning in for the night, always turn off the tree lights.

Related: Disaster-Proof Your Holiday Decor

Placing ornaments and tinsel

“Keep your glass ornaments high enough so that toddlers can't reach them,” says Drengenberg. If the kids grab them or knock them off and the ornaments break, they could get cut on the glass pieces or put them in their mouths. Also put sharp or weighted ornaments up high.

The same goes for ornaments made with small, removable parts and those made to resemble food, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. These are a choking hazard for kids.

Drengenberg recommends decorating the lower branches with paper, plush ornaments and other safer decorations.

Garlands and light strings can strangle children who play with them, according to Electrical Safety Foundation International. Keep them out of reach of small, curious hands.

Small children may be attracted to tinsel, so if you use it, keep it off the lower branches.

Keep the pets away

“Cats sometimes like to get up in the tree,” says Drengenberg. That's one good reason to make sure your stand is stable and consider attaching the tree to the wall.

Secure any items your pet might chew on, such as gingerbread men, candy canes and light cords. (Also keep pets away from holiday plants, such as poinsettias, holly and mistletoe, that can make them sick.)

Cats are attracted to tinsel because it's shiny and fun to play with. “Long strands of tinsel can get stuck in the intestines of a dog or cat,” says Drengenberg. “So, if you have a pet that's prone to eating unusual things, it's best to skip the tinsel.”

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David Arv Bragi is a freelance journalist and marketing consultant. He has been writing about health and safety issues since the 1990s and currently lives in Portland, Oregon.